The generation of a movement is the combination of discrete events (action potentials) generated in the brain, spinal cord, nerves, and muscles. These discrete events are the result of ion exchanges across membranes, electrochemical mechanisms, and active ion pumping through energy expenditure. The ensemble of spike trains discharged in the various parts of the neuromuscular system constitutes the neural code for movements. Recording and interpretation of this code provides the means for decoding the motor system. The main limitation in the investigation of the motor system is the current impossibility of detecting and processing in the intact human, during natural movements, the activity of a sufficiently large number of motor neurons and sensory afferents (neural code) to associate a functional meaning to the cellular mechanisms that ultimately determine a movement. This limitation in turn impedes to answer to many fundamental questions on the control of human movements. These questions have tremendous implications in the development of man-machine interface systems. In this project, we propose the development of advanced electrode systems for in-vivo electrophysiological recordings from nerves and muscles in humans and new computational methods/models for extracting functionally significant information on human movement from these recordings. The highly innovative focus is that of providing the link between the cellular mechanisms and the behavior of the whole motor system in the intact human, i.e. to build the bridge between the neural and functional understanding of movement. On the basis of these new technologies, we aim at answering open questions in movement neuroscience and using novel principles for man-machine interaction. Specific applications in man-machine interaction will be related to neurorehabilitation technologies, such as functional electrical stimulation, myoelectric and peripheral neural prostheses.
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Funding SchemeERC-AG - ERC Advanced Grant