Model fish could have prosthetic application

Scientists at the University of Maryland and Tulane University have developed a computational model of a swimming fish that is claimed to be the first to address the interaction of both internal and external forces on locomotion.

The interdisciplinary research team simulated how the fish’s flexible body bends, depending on both the forces from the fluid moving around it, as well as the muscles inside.

’When a fish moves in a fluid, muscles contract, but the fluid also moves against the body. So, the amount the body moves depends on the internal muscle force and the external reaction of fluids,’ explained Eric Tytell, who conducted the research as a postdoctoral researcher in the laboratory of Prof Avis Cohen at the University of Maryland’s Department of Biology.

Understanding the general principles of animal movement could help to design and inspire engineered systems, including robots and medical prosthetics.

The simulation was developed for the lamprey, a primitive vertebrate whose nervous system is being used as a model by Cohen and colleagues to develop prosthetic devices for people with spinal cord injuries.