Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

From vision to hand action

26.07.2016

Neuroscientists at the German Primate Center decipher how our brain controls grasping movements

Our hands are highly developed grasping organs that are in continuous use. Long before we stir our first cup of coffee in the morning, our hands have executed a multitude of grasps. Directing a pen between our thumb and index finger over a piece of paper with absolute precision appears as easy as catching a ball or operating a doorknob.


Dr. Stefan Schaffelhofer prepares the setup for grasp tests with a data glove and an object carrousel.

Image: Thomas Steuer

The neuroscientists Stefan Schaffelhofer and Hansjörg Scherberger of the German Primate Center (DPZ) have studied how the brain controls the different grasping movements. In their research with rhesus macaques, it was found that the three brain areas AIP, F5 and M1 that are responsible for planning and executing hand movements, perform different tasks within their neural network.

The AIP area is mainly responsible for processing visual features of objects, such as their size and shape. This optical information is translated into motor commands in the F5 area. The M1 area is ultimately responsible for turning this motor commands into actions. The results of the study contribute to the development of neuroprosthetics that should help paralyzed patients to regain their hand functions (eLife, 2016).

The three brain areas AIP, F5 and M1 lay in the cerebral cortex and form a neural network responsible for translating visual properties of an object into a corresponding hand movement. Until now, the details of how this “visuomotor transformation” are performed have been unclear. During the course of his PhD thesis at the German Primate Center, neuroscientist Stefan Schaffelhofer intensively studied the neural mechanisms that control grasping movements.

"We wanted to find out how and where visual information about grasped objects, for example their shape or size, and motor characteristics of the hand, like the strength and type of a grip, are processed in the different grasp-related areas of the brain", says Schaffelhofer.

For this, two rhesus macaques were trained to repeatedly grasp 50 different objects. At the same time, the activity of hundreds of nerve cells was measured with so-called microelectrode arrays. In order to compare the applied grip types with the neural signals, the monkeys wore an electromagnetic data glove that recorded all the finger and hand movements.

The experimental setup was designed to individually observe the phases of the visuomotor transformation in the brain, namely the processing of visual object properties, the motion planning and execution. For this, the scientists developed a delayed grasping task. In order for the monkey to see the object, it was briefly lit before the start of the grasping movement. The subsequent movement took place in the dark with a short delay. In this way, visual and motor signals of neurons could be examined separately.

The results show that the AIP area is primarily responsible for the processing of visual object features. “The neurons mainly respond to the three-dimensional shape of different objects”, says Stefan Schaffelhofer. “Due to the different activity of the neurons, we could precisely distinguish as to whether the monkeys had seen a sphere, cube or cylinder. Even abstract object shapes could be differentiated based on the observed cell activity.”

In contrast to AIP, area F5 and M1 did not represent object geometries, but the corresponding hand configurations used to grasp the objects. The information of F5 and M1 neurons indicated a strong resemblance to the hand movements recorded with the data glove. “In our study we were able to show where and how visual properties of objects are converted into corresponding movement commands”, says Stefan Schaffelhofer. “In this process, the F5 area plays a central role in visuomotor transformation. Its neurons receive direct visual object information from AIP and can translate the signals into motor plans that are then executed in M1. Thus, area F5 has contact to both, the visual and motor part of the brain.”

Knowledge of how to control grasp movements is essential for the development of neuronal hand prosthetics. “In paraplegic patients, the connection between the brain and limbs is no longer functional. Neural interfaces can replace this functionality”, says Hansjörg Scherberger, head of the Neurobiology Laboratory at the DPZ. “They can read the motor signals in the brain and use them for prosthetic control. In order to program these interfaces properly, it is crucial to know how and where our brain controls the grasping movements”. The findings of this study will facilitate to new neuroprosthetic applications that can selectively process the areas’ individual information in order to improve their usability and accuracy.

Original publication

Schaffelhofer, S., Scherberger, H. (2016): Object vision to hand action in macaque parietal, motor and premotor cortices. eLife, DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.15278

Contact and notes for editors

Dr. Stefan Schaffelhofer
The Rockefeller University New York
Tel.: +1 929 375 0575
E-Mail: sschaffelh@mail.rockefeller.edu

Prof. Dr. Hansjörg Scherberger
Tel.: +49 551 3851-494
E-Mail: hscherberger@dpz.eu

Dr. Susanne Diederich (Communication)
Tel.: +49 551 3851-359
E-Mail: sdiederich@dpz.eu

Printable pictures are available in our media library. A video clip about the project can be downloaded using this link: http://medien.dpz.eu/pindownload/login.do?pin=WNSD5. This YouTube video explains how Stefan Schaffelhofer did his research: https://youtu.be/MIsEG6IBrYg. The press release with additional information is also to be found on our website after the embargo has lifted. Please send us a copy or link in case of publication.

The German Primate Center (DPZ) – Leibniz Institute for Primate Research conducts biological and biomedical research on and with primates in the fields of infection research, neuroscience and primate biology. In addition, it operates four field stations in the tropics and is a reference and service center for all aspects of primate research. The DPZ is one of the 88 research and infrastructure institutes of the Leibniz Association in Germany.

Weitere Informationen:

http://medien.dpz.eu/pindownload/login.do?pin=WNSD5 Video clip about the research data
https://youtu.be/MIsEG6IBrYg Video clip about research on how we plan hand movements
http://medien.dpz.eu/webgate/keyword.html?currentContainerId=3401 Printable images

Dr. Susanne Diederich | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft

Further reports about: DPZ activity brain areas hand movements movements visual properties

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Kidney tumor: Genetic trigger discovered
18.06.2018 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

nachricht New type of photosynthesis discovered
18.06.2018 | Imperial College London

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: AchemAsia 2019 will take place in Shanghai

Moving into its fourth decade, AchemAsia is setting out for new horizons: The International Expo and Innovation Forum for Sustainable Chemical Production will take place from 21-23 May 2019 in Shanghai, China. With an updated event profile, the eleventh edition focusses on topics that are especially relevant for the Chinese process industry, putting a strong emphasis on sustainability and innovation.

Founded in 1989 as a spin-off of ACHEMA to cater to the needs of China’s then developing industry, AchemAsia has since grown into a platform where the latest...

Im Focus: First real-time test of Li-Fi utilization for the industrial Internet of Things

The BMBF-funded OWICELLS project was successfully completed with a final presentation at the BMW plant in Munich. The presentation demonstrated a Li-Fi communication with a mobile robot, while the robot carried out usual production processes (welding, moving and testing parts) in a 5x5m² production cell. The robust, optical wireless transmission is based on spatial diversity; in other words, data is sent and received simultaneously by several LEDs and several photodiodes. The system can transmit data at more than 100 Mbit/s and five milliseconds latency.

Modern production technologies in the automobile industry must become more flexible in order to fulfil individual customer requirements.

Im Focus: Sharp images with flexible fibers

An international team of scientists has discovered a new way to transfer image information through multimodal fibers with almost no distortion - even if the fiber is bent. The results of the study, to which scientist from the Leibniz-Institute of Photonic Technology Jena (Leibniz IPHT) contributed, were published on 6thJune in the highly-cited journal Physical Review Letters.

Endoscopes allow doctors to see into a patient’s body like through a keyhole. Typically, the images are transmitted via a bundle of several hundreds of optical...

Im Focus: Photoexcited graphene puzzle solved

A boost for graphene-based light detectors

Light detection and control lies at the heart of many modern device applications, such as smartphone cameras. Using graphene as a light-sensitive material for...

Im Focus: Water is not the same as water

Water molecules exist in two different forms with almost identical physical properties. For the first time, researchers have succeeded in separating the two forms to show that they can exhibit different chemical reactivities. These results were reported by researchers from the University of Basel and their colleagues in Hamburg in the scientific journal Nature Communications.

From a chemical perspective, water is a molecule in which a single oxygen atom is linked to two hydrogen atoms. It is less well known that water exists in two...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Munich conference on asteroid detection, tracking and defense

13.06.2018 | Event News

2nd International Baltic Earth Conference in Denmark: “The Baltic Sea region in Transition”

08.06.2018 | Event News

ISEKI_Food 2018: Conference with Holistic View of Food Production

05.06.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Novel method for investigating pore geometry in rocks

18.06.2018 | Earth Sciences

Diamond watch components

18.06.2018 | Process Engineering

New type of photosynthesis discovered

18.06.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>