Colloquium Cognitive Systems

Enhanced manipulation abilities in humans with 6-fingered hands

Prof. Dr. Carsten Mehring (Bernstein Center Freiburg and Faculty of Biology, University of Freiburg)


Abstract. Neurotechnology attempts to develop supernumerary limbs, but can the human brain deal with the complexity to control extra limbs and yield functional advantages from it? To address this question we analyzed for the first time the neuromechanics and manipulation abilities of polydactyly subjects with 6-fingers per hand. The results reveal unique hands with five fingers as in common hands and a supernumerary finger (SF) with extra muscles and nerves that can move independently from them. Neural resources dedicated to the SF enable our polydactyly subjects to coordinate it with the other fingers for more complex movements, 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 motor deficits or impairments, and can provide superior manipulation abilities.  

Bio. Carsten Mehring received his diploma in Physics in 1998 at Ruprecht-Karls-University Heidelberg. From 1999 to 2003 he did his PhD in Biology, Neurobiology and Biophysics at Albert-Ludwigs-University Freiburg. From 2003 to 2010 he was a junior research group leader for Animal Physiology and Neurobiology at the Institute of Biology I at Freiburg University. From 2010 to 2013 he was senior lecturer at the Dept. of Bioengineering and Dept. of Electrical & Electronic Engineering at the Imperial College London and at the same time until 2014 honorary senior lecturer at the Institute of Neurology at the University College London. Since 11/2013 he is a full professor and head of Neurobiology and Neurotechnology, Freiburg University, and since 1/2018 member of the board of directors of the Bernstein Centre Freiburg.