Robot salamander helps understand spinal cord

9th March 2007, Comments 0 comments

WASHINGTON, March 8, 2007 (AFP) - Small steps for a robot salamander may just be a leap toward understanding spinal cord injuries, according to a study released Thursday by French and Swiss scientists.

WASHINGTON, March 8, 2007 (AFP) - Small steps for a robot salamander may just be a leap toward understanding spinal cord injuries, according to a study released Thursday by French and Swiss scientists.

The robot can change speed and gait in response to electronic impulses, indicating that the distributed nervous function of the spinal cord may hold the key to understanding the complex locomotion of vertebrates, according to the study released in the March 9 issue of the magazine Science.

Scientists of the University of Bordeaux, France and the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, Switzerland (EPFL) created Salamandra Robotica, a four-legged yellow creature that follows the impulses of a simple computerized drive.

EPFL professor Auke Ijspeert said, "We used the robot to show that our model actually reflects reality.

"The robot was very useful to validate that our model could effectively modulate speed, direction and gait -- aspects that need a mechanical 'body' to be properly evaluated -- and also to verify that the generated movements are close to those of a real salamander."

Because the research may lead to better understanding of the human spinal cord circuitry, it may help remedy spinal cord injuries, the paper said.

"Nature found a nice way of making a sophisticated circuit in the spinal cord and then controlling the muscles from there," said Ijspeert.

"It's a fantastic solution for coordinating multiple degrees of freedom in a simple distributed way."

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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