Computational motor control is the quantitative study of the biological motor control system. We employ engineering tools to understand how the brain controls movements with applications to science technology and rehabilitation.
Biological motor control presents a great challenge for scientists and engineers. "Simple" tasks such as playing with a ball are much more difficult for artificial machines than many "intelligent" tasks such as playing a game of Chess.
The broad target of our research is to reveal the secrets of brain by building a model of its operation, and examining its properties with analytical tools as well as numerical simulations. Three different reasons motivate this research: the patient, the robot and the brain.
Paralyzed patients can improve their quality of life by an artificial limb or external stimulation of their muscles. In order to design these aids, one needs a model of the biological motor control system.
Robots are inferior to people and animals in many aspects. One of the promising directions to improve our technology is by imitating nature and learning from its ingenious solutions.
The main outputs of the nervous system are the muscles, and motor control is the salient evolutionary drive for the development of the brain. Therefore the act of modeling and understanding the motor control system can be symbolized as polishing the window to the secrets of the brain.
The Computational Motor Control Laboratory (CMCL) of Prof. Karniel was established in 2004 with start-up funds provided by Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) and by the Zlotowski Center for Neuroscience at BGU. Since its founding, the CMCL has been operated with funds from the BSF, the National Institute of Psychobiology in Israel, the Ministry of Science Culture and Sport through a French-Israel collaboration and the Israel Science Foundation. The laboratory extends over 60 m2 and includes workstations; augmented reality Reachin/Sensegraphics systems with four PHANTOM Premium 3.0, one PHANTOM 1.5, five PHANTOM desktop manipulanda, two Omni devices, all from SensAble Technologies; a four-sensor MiniBIRD 500 magnetic tracking system for magnetic tracking from Ascension Technology; a custom-made forearm-tracking device; and a video conferencing system.