MSU researcher looks to octopuses to design ‘smart prosthetics’

Michigan

In Galit Pelled’s lab, artificial intelligence software is used to efficiently follow, analyze and characterize octopus’s motion. Photo by Kurt Stepnitz

In the Galit Pelled lab, this is one of the first attempts at modeling octopus movements where the artificial intelligence software was able to track this octopus along 5 points on its arm.

EAST LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — An MSU researcher is studying octopuses to see if they hold the key to restoring limb function in humans.

The Michigan State University neuroscientist and neuroengineer Galit Pelled received a $2.35 million National Institutes of Health grant to analyze the complex movements of octopuses’ eight arms.

Pelled believes this research could help create “smart” prosthetics that humans could control with their brains, allowing them to regain the use of their arms and hands.

“By studying the octopus, we may be able to give people back the use of their arms – to be able to pick up a cup or hold a child – which would be an amazing gift,” said Pelled, professor and director of the Neuroengineering Division at MSU’s Institute for Quantitative Health Sciences and Engineering.

Using video recordings and artificial intelligence, Pelled and her team of scientists are gathering detailed information on how an octopus waves its tentacles and grabs objects.

“Each arm of an octopus contains an axial nerve that functions like a vertebrate’s spinal cord, yet with a limitless range of movement,” Pelled said. “This is why the octopus provides an unparalleled model to study central sensorimotor circuits associated with grasping behavior. If these movements can be described in mathematical terms, it may be possible to create an arm brace that a person could control with their brain.”

In Galit Pelled’s lab, artificial intelligence software is used to efficiently follow, analyze and characterize the octopus’s movement. This video shows the octopus reaching while being tracked by 16 points placed artificially along the arm using the AI algorithm.

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