An Important Step from Turkey in Artificial Sense of Touch

Founded by Assistant Professor Burak Güçlü of Bogazici University Biomedical Engineering Institute, Sense of Touch Research Laboratory is developing artificial sense of touch  to be used in advanced technology neuro prosthesis for paralyzed and amputee patients.

Supported as TUBITAK 1001 project, it is one of the few research studies in the world conducted in this field. The outcome of the project will be shared with scientists during a two-day international workshop to be held at Boğaziçi University.

                                            

Assoc. Prof. Burak Güçlü who received his doctorate degree in neuroscience at Syracuse University in 2003, is a faculty member at Boğaziçi University since 2004. In a statement he made on this research,  he pointed out that neuroprosthetics is one of the major application areas of neuroscience in the recent years,  designed for patients who have lost their motor skills as a result of a variety of diseases and injuries.

Assoc.Prof. Güçlü gave the following information on his studies;

“General operating principle of neuroprosthetics is the launching of the robot joint movement via real-time processing of biological signals which make up the muscle movement. Current research studies use electrodes placed in the peripheral nerves and brain for this purpose.  Through basic neuroscience research, recording and interpreting neurons at cellular level has become a routine laboratory operation. In The United States, The Braingate system which is developed specifically for stroke patients, is the most advanced neuroprosthetics using this technology. Through the help of an implant placed in the brain, it is possible to perceive motion commands that occur in neurons and access to objects and grasp them by using a robot arm. We are working on adding sense feature to neuroprosthetics in the project we carry out at Bogazici University supported by TUBITAK.”

When “sense” feature is added to Neuroprosthetics,  their motion performance will enhance significantly

Güçlü pointed out that, the biggest shortcoming of neuroprosthetics is the absence of sense deriving from movement function and physical feedback of sense deriving from touch ( mechanic, temperature, pain). Therefore, patients need to watch the movements of hands or arms of the robot constantly and as a result, they find it difficult to accept neuroprosthetics as their own limbs. When sense feature is added, the movement performance is expected to improve and result in better adaptation of the limb by the patient.

He continued; “During the experiments we conduct on animals, we record neurons in the body sensation cortex while we measure the psychophysical response through electrical stimulation of neurons. Psychophysical responses created by using artificial senses through electrical stimulation are compared with the performance achieved via using natural mechanical stimulation and thus computational models are built.”

For the development of prototype hardware device which can be used during natural behavior, a collaboration is under way with BUMEMS laboratory at Boğaziçi University Electric-Electronic Engineering Department (Assist. Prof. Şenol Mutlu) and Boğaziçi R & D Limited in Teknopark (Prof. Dr. Mehmet Özkan).  During the final phase of the project, experimental animals  will wear these devices on their hind ends (back legs) and thus feel the surface not with their own feet but with the help of sensors in the device.

Assoc. Prof. Güçlü concluded as follows;  “Signals from the sensors on device’s surface will be processed in real time according to the computational models running at the main computer at Sense of Touch Research Laboratory and will create electrical current pulses required to stimulate the neurons. Thus, behavioral tests of experimental animals will be completed with the help of artificial sense of touch.”