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Sleiman Bensameha, who developed artificial limbs to feel, dies at 49

Sliman Bensameha, whose pioneering work on the neuroscience of touch opened doors for people with disabilities and quadriplegia, allowing them not only to hold a cup of coffee, but to feel its heat and know that holding it How much pressure to apply. Tight died on August 11 at his home in Chicago. He was 49 years old.

His death was confirmed by the University of Chicago, where he was a professor in the biology and anatomy departments. No reason was given.

Dr. Bensamiah was a postdoctoral fellow at Johns Hopkins University in the 2000s when the Department of Defense pledged $100 million for prosthetics research to cope with the growing number of wounded veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq.

Scientists were making huge strides in the field of brain-controlled prosthetics, but giving users of such devices the sensation of touch was still largely uncharted territory. Patients could not really feel what they were doing: whether a material was rough or smooth, whether it was moving or stationary, not even their limb in space.

Dr. Bensmia (pronounced ben-SMY-ah) sees his work as taking the next step: understanding how the brain receives and processes information through touch, which in turn can help design prosthetics similar to an organic organ. May allow for greater performance.

“Touch is so rich, so multidimensional,” he told Discover magazine in 2016. “There’s a lot we understand, but there’s still a lot we don’t know.”

Much of his basic research involved rhesus monkeys, whose nervous systems are very similar to humans.

He and his team would connect electrodes to areas of the monkeys’ brains, apply spots to their hands, and then analyze where the brain received that sensory information, as well as how the animals responded. They then used electrodes to simulate those shocks, in an attempt to mimic the experience.

“When you imagine moving your hand, that part of the brain is still active, but because of the loss of contact, nothing happens,” he told the journal Wireless Design & Development in 2014. Stimulate it directly to generate certain perceptions of touch to better control the brain and modulatory organ.

Most scientists focus their laboratories on pure or applied research. Dr. Bensamiya’s Group — about two dozen undergraduates, graduate students, postdocs and technicians — managed to do both. They employed teams of neuroscientists as well as engineers and computer programmers.

“He ran his lab like a small company,” David Friedman, a neurobiologist in Chicago, said in a phone interview.

Such co-ordination was necessary for the complex work in which Dr. Bensamiya was engaged. The sense of touch involves a wide range of finely measured inputs—pressure, heat, motion, stiffness—all of which are transmitted to the brain via approximately 100 billion neurons and 100 neurons. Trillion Synaptic Connections.

“The hand is, in a way, an expression of our intelligence, our neural sophistication,” he said in 2022 on a podcast with Johns Hopkins University neuroscience professor Mark Mattson.

A gifted pianist who played regular shows around Chicago, Dr. Bensamea compared the flow of input to a “neural symphony.”

He moved his research from Johns Hopkins to the University of Chicago in 2009, but continues to collaborate with his former colleagues at Hopkins as well as research teams at the University of Pittsburgh.

In 2016, his team and a group from the University of Pittsburgh prepared a 28-year-old man, Nathan CopelandParalyzed from the neck down, he could feel through his fingers with the help of an artificial hand.

During a tour of the lab, President Barack Obama observed Mr. Copeland working, then punched him.

“It’s unbelievable,” Mr. Obama said.

Slimane Julien Bensamiah was born on 17 September 1973 in Nice, France. His parents, Reda Benzema and Joel Proust, are philosophers. Sleiman grew up in France and Algeria, then moved to the United States at the age of 15.

He studied cognitive science at the University of Virginia with plans to go into music. But his parents convinced him to pursue a doctoral degree instead, so after graduating in 1995 he enrolled in the cognitive psychology department at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He did his Ph.D. Received. in 2003.

Dr. Bensamiya was a prolific researcher; He and his colleague Stacey Lindau recently started work a bionic breastTo restore sensation in patients after mastectomy.

In addition to his parents, Dr. Bensameia is survived by his wife, Kerry Ledoux; his brother, Jamel; and their children, Cecilie and Maceo.

Dr. Bensamiah never lost his interest in music: he and his colleague in Chicago, Dr. Friedman, formed a band called Fuzz, and released an album in 2013.

But it was only in the last few weeks that the two started talking about conducting a research project together on the relationship between the way the brain processes visual and tactile input.

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