Tools improve the functionality of our hands, but What if we spread our royal hands? Imagine the number of doors that would be opened to us: to carry the purchase more easily, to be able to pick up more objects at the same time, to streamline daily tasks …
Probably I would be able to write this article much faster if I had a pair of robotic thumbs. Fortunately or unfortunately, it is not something that is possible for me, but for the 36 study participants made by the Institute of Neurocognitive Science at the University of London.
This study, published last Wednesday in the journal ScienceRobotics was designed by co-author and senior research technician Danielle Clode and shows that just because we can augment our bodies with technology doesn’t necessarily mean we should, at least not without first discovering how it affects our brain.
The people who took part in the trial had to equip themselves with an additional robotic thumb for several days, which they colloquially called ‘the third thumb’. The researchers found that even small increases can have a big impact on the way our brains recognize our own bodies, including reducing that recognition entirely.
Can the human brain support an extra part of the body?
Once the research team placed their thumbs on the participants, they had five days to adjust and learn how to use their new thumbs. This robotic thumb differs from other devices experimental magnification because it’s wireless (it works with the user’s toes instead of a brain-computer interface) and thus they were also able to fit comfortably at home.
Surprisingly, the participants mastered their new thumbs very quickly and showed significant improvements across the board. in all his motor tasks. But these improvements seem to come with a worrisome neural compensation.
There were people who were beginning to bond with the new limb. Some took a while to say goodbye to her and felt as if they had lost something.
When the team placed the participants on a functional (thumbless) MRI scan to see how their brains might have changed as a result of the experience, they noticed a Distinctive “contraction” in the way participants mentally represented and understood their own hand.
Towards the end of the experiment some participants reported that they felt that the new finger was beginning to become part of their body.
In this video that collects the article of Inverse It can be seen how the participants did daily tasks with a sixth finger and adapted.
The use of robotic extensions in the future
This test is a Important message for anyone interested in a system to increase human mobility safely and effectively. We now know that prosthetics of this type modify the brain and those changes must be understood before such a technology becomes mainstream. This study does not say how the largest increases in the human body by robotics could affect our brain, but for now, the research team is looking to improve the use and study of the flear. In the future, it will be especially important to consider how these technologies could affect people whose brains are not completely set in stone, like children and teenagers.
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