Monkey Controls Robot Arm by Thought Alone

Article excerpt

A BRAIN implant has allowed animals to control a robot arm by thought alone in a study that raises the prospect of helping paralysed people who cannot use their limbs.

Scientists from Duke University in North Carolina said yesterday that the implants permitted laboratory monkeys to manipulate a mechanical arm using brain signals.

The primates learnt that to move the robot, they had to think about doing so. This is the first time scientists have demonstrated the possibility of controlling an artificial limb as if it were part of the body.

Tiny electrodes implanted into the brain of each monkey transmitted electrical signals to a computer controlling the movements of the robotic arm.

At first the monkeys were trained to control the robot arm using a joystick. When this was deactivated, the animals could still move the mechanical arm by thinking about moving the joystick in the appropriate way, said Miguel Nicolelis, professor of neurobiology at Duke University. …