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As part of our overall effort to build a closed loop brain-machine interface (BMI), we have developed a simple, low weight, and low inertial torque manipulandum that is ideal for use in motor system investigations with small animals such as rats. It is inexpensive and small but emulates features of large and very expensive systems currently used in monkey and human research. Our device consists of a small programmable torque-motor system that is attached to a manipulandum. Rats are trained to grasp this manipulandum and move it to one or more targets against programmed force field perturbations. Here we report several paradigms that may be used with this device and results from rat's making reaching movements in a variety of force fields. These and other available experimental manipulations allow one to experimentally separate several key variables that are critical for understanding and ultimately emulating the feedforward and feedback mechanisms of motor control.
Date of Publication: June 2004