Nature Comms: Augmented manipulation ability with six-fingered hands
In collaboration with the groups of Carsten Mehring (Freiburg) and Etienne Burdet (Imperial College), Michel Akselrod and other researchers from the Blanke Lab investigated the superior manipulation abilities of two polydactyly subjects.
Neurotechnology attempts to develop supernumerary limbs, but can the human brain deal with the complexity to control an extra limb and yield advantages from it? Here, we analyzed the neuromechanics and manipulation abilities of two polydactyly subjects who each possess six fingers on their hands. Anatomical MRI of the supernumerary finger (SF) revealed that it is actuated by extra muscles and nerves, and fMRI identified a distinct cortical representation of the SF. In both subjects, the SF was able to move independently from the other fingers. Polydactyly subjects were able to coordinate the SF with their other fingers for more complex movements than five fingered subjects, and so carry out with only one hand tasks normally requiring two hands. These results demonstrate that a body with significantly more degrees-of-freedom can be controlled by the human nervous system without causing motor deficits or impairments and can instead provide superior manipulation abilities.
Mehring, C., Akselrod, M., Bashford, L., Mace, M., Choi, H., Blüher, M., … Burdet, E. (2019). Augmented manipulation ability in humans with six-fingered hands. Nature Communications, 10(1), 2401. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-019-10306-w