A biologically inspired neural network controller for ballistic arm movements. (73/499)

BACKGROUND: In humans, the implementation of multijoint tasks of the arm implies a highly complex integration of sensory information, sensorimotor transformations and motor planning. Computational models can be profitably used to better understand the mechanisms sub-serving motor control, thus providing useful perspectives and investigating different control hypotheses. To this purpose, the use of Artificial Neural Networks has been proposed to represent and interpret the movement of upper limb. In this paper, a neural network approach to the modelling of the motor control of a human arm during planar ballistic movements is presented. METHODS: The developed system is composed of three main computational blocks: 1) a parallel distributed learning scheme that aims at simulating the internal inverse model in the trajectory formation process; 2) a pulse generator, which is responsible for the creation of muscular synergies; and 3) a limb model based on two joints (two degrees of freedom) and six muscle-like actuators, that can accommodate for the biomechanical parameters of the arm. The learning paradigm of the neural controller is based on a pure exploration of the working space with no feedback signal. Kinematics provided by the system have been compared with those obtained in literature from experimental data of humans. RESULTS: The model reproduces kinematics of arm movements, with bell-shaped wrist velocity profiles and approximately straight trajectories, and gives rise to the generation of synergies for the execution of movements. The model allows achieving amplitude and direction errors of respectively 0.52 cm and 0.2 radians. Curvature values are similar to those encountered in experimental measures with humans. The neural controller also manages environmental modifications such as the insertion of different force fields acting on the end-effector. CONCLUSION: The proposed system has been shown to properly simulate the development of internal models and to control the generation and execution of ballistic planar arm movements. Since the neural controller learns to manage movements on the basis of kinematic information and arm characteristics, it could in perspective command a neuroprosthesis instead of a biomechanical model of a human upper limb, and it could thus give rise to novel rehabilitation techniques.  (+info)

Reactions of peptidoglycan-mimetic beta-lactams with penicillin-binding proteins in vivo and in membranes. (74/499)

The membrane-bound bacterial D-alanyl- D-alanine peptidases or penicillin-binding proteins (PBPs) catalyze the final transpeptidation reaction of bacterial cell wall biosynthesis and are the targets of beta-lactam antibiotics. Rather surprisingly, the substrate specificity of these enzymes is not well understood. In this paper, we present measurements of the reactivity of typical examples of these enzymes with peptidoglycan-mimetic beta-lactams under in vivo conditions. The minimum inhibitory concentrations of beta-lactams with Escherichia coli-specific side chains were determined against E. coli cells. Analogous measurements were made with Streptococcus pneumoniae R6. The reactivity of the relevant beta-lactams with E. coli PBPs in membrane preparations was also determined. The results show that under none of the above protocols were beta-lactams with peptidoglycan-mimetic side chains more reactive than generic analogues. This suggests that in vivo, as in vitro, these enzymes do not specifically recognize elements of peptidoglycan structure local to the reaction center. Substrate recognition must thus involve extended structure.  (+info)

What are lightness illusions and why do we see them? (75/499)

Lightness illusions are fundamental to human perception, and yet why we see them is still the focus of much research. Here we address the question by modelling not human physiology or perception directly as is typically the case but our natural visual world and the need for robust behaviour. Artificial neural networks were trained to predict the reflectance of surfaces in a synthetic ecology consisting of 3-D "dead-leaves" scenes under non-uniform illumination. The networks learned to solve this task accurately and robustly given only ambiguous sense data. In addition--and as a direct consequence of their experience--the networks also made systematic "errors" in their behaviour commensurate with human illusions, which includes brightness contrast and assimilation--although assimilation (specifically White's illusion) only emerged when the virtual ecology included 3-D, as opposed to 2-D scenes. Subtle variations in these illusions, also found in human perception, were observed, such as the asymmetry of brightness contrast. These data suggest that "illusions" arise in humans because (i) natural stimuli are ambiguous, and (ii) this ambiguity is resolved empirically by encoding the statistical relationship between images and scenes in past visual experience. Since resolving stimulus ambiguity is a challenge faced by all visual systems, a corollary of these findings is that human illusions must be experienced by all visual animals regardless of their particular neural machinery. The data also provide a more formal definition of illusion: the condition in which the true source of a stimulus differs from what is its most likely (and thus perceived) source. As such, illusions are not fundamentally different from non-illusory percepts, all being direct manifestations of the statistical relationship between images and scenes.  (+info)

Acetylation mimics within individual core histone tail domains indicate distinct roles in regulating the stability of higher-order chromatin structure. (76/499)

Nucleosome arrays undergo salt-dependent self-association into large oligomers in a process thought to recapitulate essential aspects of higher-order tertiary chromatin structure formation. Lysine acetylation within the core histone tail domains inhibits self-association, an effect likely related to its role in facilitating transcription. As acetylation of specific tail domains may encode distinct functions, we investigated biochemical and self-association properties of model nucleosome arrays containing combinations of native and mutant core histones with lysine-to-glutamine substitutions to mimic acetylation. Acetylation mimics within the tail domains of H2B and H4 caused the largest inhibition of array self-association, while modification of the H3 tail uniquely affected the stability of DNA wrapping within individual nucleosomes. In addition, the effect of acetylation mimics on array self-association is inconsistent with a simple charge neutralization mechanism. For example, acetylation mimics within the H2A tail can have either a positive or negative effect on self-association, dependent upon the acetylation state of the other tails and nucleosomal repeat length. Finally, we demonstrate that glutamine substitutions and lysine acetylation within the H4 tail domain have identical effects on nucleosome array self-association. Our results indicate that acetylation of specific tail domains plays distinct roles in the regulation of chromatin structure.  (+info)

A synthetic lectin analog for biomimetic disaccharide recognition. (77/499)

Carbohydrate recognition is biologically important but intrinsically challenging, for both nature and host-guest chemists. Saccharides are complex, subtly variable, and camouflaged by hydroxyl groups that hinder discrimination between substrate and water. We have developed a rational strategy for the biomimetic recognition of carbohydrates with all-equatorial stereochemistry (beta-glucose, analogs, and homologs) and have now applied it to disaccharides such as cellobiose. Our synthetic receptor showed good affinities, not unlike those of some lectins (carbohydrate-binding proteins). Binding was demonstrated by nuclear magnetic resonance, induced circular dichroism, fluorescence spectroscopy, and calorimetry, all methods giving self-consistent results. Selectivity for the target substrates was exceptional; minor changes to disaccharide structure (for instance, cellobiose to lactose) caused almost complete suppression of complex formation.  (+info)

Biomimetic brain machine interfaces for the control of movement. (78/499)

Quite recently, it has become possible to use signals recorded simultaneously from large numbers of cortical neurons for real-time control. Such brain machine interfaces (BMIs) have allowed animal subjects and human patients to control the position of a computer cursor or robotic limb under the guidance of visual feedback. Although impressive, such approaches essentially ignore the dynamics of the musculoskeletal system, and they lack potentially critical somatosensory feedback. In this mini-symposium, we will initiate a discussion of systems that more nearly mimic the control of natural limb movement. The work that we will describe is based on fundamental observations of sensorimotor physiology that have inspired novel BMI approaches. We will focus on what we consider to be three of the most important new directions for BMI development related to the control of movement. (1) We will present alternative methods for building decoders, including structured, nonlinear models, the explicit incorporation of limb state information, and novel approaches to the development of decoders for paralyzed subjects unable to generate an output signal. (2) We will describe the real-time prediction of dynamical signals, including joint torque, force, and EMG, and the real-time control of physical plants with dynamics like that of the real limb. (3) We will discuss critical factors that must be considered to incorporate somatosensory feedback to the BMI user, including its potential benefits, the differing representations of sensation and perception across cortical areas, and the changes in the cortical representation of tactile events after spinal injury.  (+info)

Understanding marine mussel adhesion. (79/499)

In addition to identifying the proteins that have a role in underwater adhesion by marine mussels, research efforts have focused on identifying the genes responsible for the adhesive proteins, environmental factors that may influence protein production, and strategies for producing natural adhesives similar to the native mussel adhesive proteins. The production-scale availability of recombinant mussel adhesive proteins will enable researchers to formulate adhesives that are water-impervious and ecologically safe and can bind materials ranging from glass, plastics, metals, and wood to materials, such as bone or teeth, biological organisms, and other chemicals or molecules. Unfortunately, as of yet scientists have been unable to duplicate the processes that marine mussels use to create adhesive structures. This study provides a background on adhesive proteins identified in the blue mussel, Mytilus edulis, and introduces our research interests and discusses the future for continued research related to mussel adhesion.  (+info)

A comparison of catalytic site intermediates of cytochrome c oxidase and peroxidases. (80/499)

Compounds I and II of peroxidases such as horseradish peroxidase and cytochrome c peroxidase are relatively well understood catalytic intermediates in terms of their structures and redox states of iron, heme, and associated radical species. The intermediates involved in the oxygen reduction chemistry of the cytochrome c oxidase superfamily are more complicated because of the need for four reducing equivalents and because of the linkage of the oxygen chemistry with vectorial proton translocations. Nevertheless, two of these intermediates, the peroxy and ferryl forms, have characteristics that can in many ways be considered to be counterparts of peroxidase compounds I and II. We explore the primary factors that minimize the generation of unwanted reactive oxygen species products and ensure that the principal enzymological function becomes either that of a peroxidase or an oxidase. These comparisons can provide insights into the nature of biological oxygen reduction chemistry and guidance for the engineering of biomimetic synthetic materials.  (+info)