Monkey’s brain signals control ‘third arm’
12:58 13 October 03
NewScientist.com news service
(full paper available from PLOS)
Monkeys can control a robot arm as naturally as their own limbs using only brain signals, a pioneering experiment has shown. The macaque monkeys could reach and grasp with the same precision as their own hand.
“It’s just as if they have a representation of a third arm,” says project leader Miguel Nicolelis, at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. Experts believe the experiment’s success bodes well for future devices for humans that are controlled solely by thought.
They’ve been doing these sorts of experiments for years. If you open up the skull and do minute enough surgery you can find neurons. You can then hook up electrodes to these neurons and measure whether they fire or not. Neurons fire a weak electrical pulse.
In the case of motor control the relevant neurons are in the frontoparietal region, the motor cortex.
Normally that electrical signal goes down your spine to your arm. What these scientists are doing is rerouting the electrical signal over the Net to a robotic arm.
It’s easy enough to move a mouse with Brain control, maybe it’ll come to market soon.
This publication is a pretty big coup for PLOS (Public Library of Science). PLOS is an open Science Journal, unlike New Scientist and Nature and Science, which are very exclusive communities with laborious and length peer-review processes. These magazines maintain centralized control of what information is published. They’re also dope. PLOS is a serious journal with serious peer-review, it’s just more open and flexible than the old magazine models. They got too much traffic and their website is down.