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Research Fellows Directory

Dario Farina

Professor Dario Farina

Research Fellow


Imperial College London

Research summary

The execution of movements results from a very complex chain of processes, all coded by the occurrence of discrete electrical events, called action potentials. Action potentials are generated by the cells of the neuromuscular system that are the neurons and muscle fibers. Our research focuses on one type of these cells, the spinal motor neurons, which are located in the spinal cord. Spinal motor neurons are the last cells that process the neural information underlying movement since they directly send commands to the muscle fibers to execute movements. Accurate decoding of the activity of these cells allows us to understand the effects of the neural activity on the generated motor functions. This ability provides a fundamental means for studying the basic mechanisms of movement generation, thus understanding its physiology and pathology, and for designing new methods for deciphering the motor intention in patients with motor impairments to drive external assistive devices. For example, we have applied these methods for investigating the changes occurring in the spinal neural networks when healthy individuals perform several weeks of strength training and we have identified specific markers of the type and effectiveness of the training. Moreover, the same techniques can be applied in patients with amputations for controlling bionic limbs that substitute their missing limbs. We have applied these techniques for this purpose in a recent study that has been extensively discussed in the media (e.g., In that study, we have decoded the activity of spinal motor neurons in patients with amputations of the arm and have translated it into the movement of their missing limb, according to the patients’ intended motor tasks. This approach will provide patients with the ability of a more accurate control of advanced robotic limbs.

Grants awarded

Breaking the neural code for advancing emerging neurotechnologies

Scheme: Wolfson Research Merit Awards

Dates: Oct 2016 - Sep 2021

Value: £50,000