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The University of Southampton
Biological Sciences

Moving one foot in front of another: lessons from insects

Published: 12 July 2010
Locust

Aiding the development of better rehabilitation techniques

Professor Philip Newland of the School of Biological Sciences is working with researchers at Honda to investigate how our nervous system controls how we move our limbs.

The project, involving the University’s Institute of Sound and Vibration Research and funded by the Biology and Biotechnology Research Council (BBSRC), could aid the development of better rehabilitation techniques for people recovering from injuries and assist engineers working in robotics and automation systems.

“The modelling of the activity patterns of neurones using signal processing approaches has been a long-standing goal of neuroscientists and is one that will have a big impact in many areas,” said Philip. “Such studies reveal important information about the organisation of the neural pathways underlying limb movement, how neurones integrate and process signals, inter-joint coordination and the development of improved methods for analysis.”

Understanding how the neural networks of insects work can provide powerful insights into these areas. This will form part of our long-term strategy to exploit new engineering methods to further our understanding of biological systems, and to use this new knowledge both for the benefit of health care through improved physiotherapy and through engineering design control systems for robotics.
The desert locust is used in this analysis as it is well established that there are strong parallels with muscle control between insects and other animals.

Professor Philip Newland

Understanding the complex interaction between electrical signals produced by the activity of the neurones controlling insect limb movement also provides many challenges for the development and optimisation of new signal progressing and system analysis techniques that will provide greater insight into the functional connections and interactions between neurones.

“The modelling of the activity patterns of neurones using signal processing approaches has been a long-standing goal of neuroscientists and is one that will have a big impact in many areas,” said Philip. “Such studies reveal important information about the organisation of the neural pathways underlying limb movement, how neurones integrate and process signals, inter-joint coordination and the development of improved methods for analysis.”

Understanding how the neural networks of insects work can provide powerful insights into these areas. This will form part of our long-term strategy to exploit new engineering methods to further our understanding of biological systems, and to use this new knowledge both for the benefit of health care through improved physiotherapy and through engineering design control systems for robotics.
The desert locust is used in this analysis as it is well established that there are strong parallels with muscle control between insects and other animals.

Understanding the complex interaction between electrical signals produced by the activity of the neurones controlling insect limb movement also provides many challenges for the development and optimisation of new signal progressing and system analysis techniques that will provide greater insight into the functional connections and interactions between neurones.

Professor Philip Newland

Professor Philip Newland is Emeritus Professor of Neuroscience within Biological Sciences at the University of Southampton.

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