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Motor Augmentation: The Brain's Journey Beyond Biological Boundaries

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Drishtant Chakraborty.

In our pursuit of motor augmentation, a key question arises: (When) should we all get artificial limbs? Technology is progressing at a remarkable pace, providing us with wearable robotic technologies to substitute, and even supplement, our own limbs, freeing humans from the biological constraints of their own bodies. But can the human brain embody these exciting technologies as new body parts? I will describe recent neuroimaging and behavioural studies we’ve been conducting in amputees who use prosthetic limbs to substitute their missing hand function. These studies provide a first glimpse into neurocognitive opportunities and limitations towards artificial limb embodiment. I will then present ongoing studies examining what happens to the somatosensory and motor systems of able-bodied people using the Third Thumb (by Dani Clode Design) – a hand augmentation device. Collectively, these studies suggest that although, in principle, opportunities exist for harnessing hand neural and cognitive resources to control artificial limbs, the brain does not assimilate neural representations for the artificial limb with those for the biological body, highlighting exciting future opportunities for expanding our bodies beyond our biological boundaries.

This talk is part of the SciSoc – Cambridge University Scientific Society series.

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