Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour
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Thesis defense Sigrid Dupan (Donders series 339)

14 December 2018

Promotors: prof. dr. ir. D. Stegeman (RU, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam),
prof. dr. D. Farina (Imperial College London), prof. dr. J. van Opstal 
Co-promotor: dr H. Maas (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam)

From man to machine – neural control of fine hand movements

Our hands are amazing tools we use constantly throughout the day without
putting much thought into it. We use them to communicate with others, to
move objects, and to receive information about the world around us.
Movements we make on a daily basis, such as picking up a cup of coffee,
involve an intricate coordination of muscles. The work in the first part
of this thesis explores how our brain is organized to create these
muscle patterns seemingly effortlessly. We studied muscle patterns of
the hand while people performed a range of different movements, and also
while the brain was stimulated externally.
In the second part of the thesis, we explored if we can use these muscle
patterns to restore hand movement for upper limb amputees. Dexterous
hand prostheses, which allow the separate control of fingers, have been
introduced into the healthcare market. With the advance of this new
hardware, the control of the prostheses became the bottleneck. Through a
computer game, we showed that we can use the muscles from the lower arm
to control the different fingers of a prosthesis. In a very short setup
phase, we trained the computer to recognize the muscle patterns
associated with each finger movement, after which the participants were
also able to control these fingers simultaneously. By studying the
muscle patterns that people created while playing the game, we showed
that people can learn this new task by reacting to the mistakes they
make in the game.