Laboratory for Neural Control of Locomotion

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Understanding how systems work:

Our focus is on a simple vertebrate, the lamprey. This animal has the advantage that while it is a full fledged vertebrate, its nervous system is remarkably simple and robust. As a result we can study the entire nervous system in isolation while it produces motor output patterns associated with movements, such as swimming.
We investigate:

How are the coordinated rhythmic patterns generated by the spinal cord?

How are the spinal segments coordinated?

Can robotic implementations perform the same patterns if constructed with rules we deduce from biology? ( Hiroshi Kimura)

Understanding the potential problems associated with spinal cord regeneration and finding solutions : ( see reference)

Here, too, we use the lamprey. We have evidence that regeneration in the lamprey, while clearly a reality, can easily lead to problems for the animal. We are investigating:

What is the origin of these problems? (see reference)

What are the changes in the nervous system caused by a spinal injury? (see reference)

What are the changes in the nervous system that underlie the behavioral problems we see?

Can we use neuromorphic engineering to find rehabilitation solutions for spinal cord injury?

In association with these goals, we have developed mathematical models and are developing analog Very Large Scale integration (aVLSI) treatments of oscillatory and locomotor systems. Some are more abstract mathematical models, some are neural network models ( see reference) and others are powerful statistical tools for analysis of rhythmic patterns ( see reference). This work is ongoing within the lab and in collaboration with Holmes, Princeton University. We are also working with Tony Lewis (Iguana Robotics) and Ralph Etienne-Cummings (University of Maryland) and on an aVLSI CPG chip to control limb movements.

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