Robot-assisted surgery: an emerging platform for human neuroscience research Academic Article uri icon


  • Classic studies in human sensorimotor control use simplified tasks to uncover fundamental control strategies employed by the nervous system. Such simple tasks are critical for isolating specific features of motor, sensory, or cognitive processes, and for inferring causality between these features and observed behavioral changes. However, it remains unclear how these theories translate to complex sensorimotor tasks or to natural behaviors. Part of the difficulty in performing such experiments has been the lack of appropriate tools for measuring complex motor skills in real-world contexts. Robot-assisted surgery (RAS) provides an opportunity to overcome these challenges by enabling unobtrusive measurements of user behavior. In addition, a continuum of tasks with varying complexity – from simple tasks such as those in classic studies to highly complex tasks such as a surgical procedure – can be studied using RAS platforms. Finally, RAS includes a diverse participant population of inexperienced users all the way to expert surgeons. In this perspective, we illustrate how the characteristics of RAS systems make them compelling platforms to extend many theories in human neuroscience, as well as, to develop new theories altogether.

publication date

  • January 1, 2015