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  • We are interested in animal locomotion and would like to make robots to study animal locomotion.

  • Because animal locomotion is a very interesting interplay between the body, the spinal cord and the environment.

  • But to understand this interaction, we really need a body and that's where the robot is a key tool.

  • So we designed a salamander robot that very closely mimics the real motion of the real salamander,

  • and it can both walk and swim exactly like the real salamander.

  • It's a very old animal, it's an amphibian and it's almost a living fossil of the first terrestrial vertebrates,

  • so the ancestor of vertebrates like us, mammals.

  • So by studying the salamander we can study this key moment in evolution, the switch from swimming to walking,

  • and especially how the spinal cord has reorganized itself to allow a new mode of locomotion.

  • So the novelty of this work is really the approach we took to try to be as close as possible to the real physics of the body.

  • The species is called Pleurodeles. We looked at detailed x-ray recordings from the animals

  • so we could track the bones in 3D space and

  • that enabled us to create a very detailed model of the movements of the bones of the animal.

  • Neurobiologists have shown that if you electrically stimulate the spinal cord,

  • at low level of stimulation, it will induce a walking like gait.

  • If you stimulate a bit more, this gate accelerates, and at some point there's a threshold and it switches to swimming

  • so just changing the global drive that the brain sends to the spinal cord makes a complete switch between different modes of the locomotion.

  • So understanding this is very important, for instance, for neuroprosthetics.

  • Being able to re-stimulate those circuits in humans in the long term is something very important

  • and for that you need to understand how the spinal cord works.

We are interested in animal locomotion and would like to make robots to study animal locomotion.

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