Embracing the Complexity of the Brain-hand System to Understand Dexterous Manipulation

The brain-hand-object system is supremely complex and nonlinear. Nevertheless, the human hand is the epitome of dexterous manipulation in spite of the fact that it operates with delayed, imperfect and noisy sensors, actuators and neurons. My talk will center on the idea that, while it is clear that manual dexterity arises from the co-evolution of brain and body, we need to identify the specific contributions of the anatomy vis-à-vis the nervous system. Our interdisciplinary and collaborative research approach is heavily influenced by a nonlinear approach to complex system because it enables us to gain insight in the structure and control of the hand while embracing its complexity. This work is instrumental to understanding how dexterity arises and decays throughout the life span, why and how disease degrades it, and how to best design and apply clinical treatment to restore it. Importantly, the lessons learned allow us to build better machines and understand organisms in general.

Francisco Valero-Cuevas, Cornell University

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