Paralysis hope in monkey mind games
AMERICAN scientists claim to have given two monkeys the ability to communicate with computers through the power of thought.
According to Dr Miguel Nicolelis, his research group, based in Duke University, North Carolina, implanted electrode devices in the brains of two female rhesus macaque monkeys called Aurora and Ivy.
These allowed the monkeys to control a computer game using only their thoughts.
The two animals’ brains adjusted to the presence of the devices to such an extent that they relied purely on thought rather than any physical effort to play the game.
Dr Nicolelis said he hoped the device would eventually allow paralysed patients to regain some ability to use their upper bodies, virtually, if not physically.
The study began three years ago, when the group reported that they had allowed a monkey to move a robotic arm using only her thoughts and implanted electrodes.
Dr Nicolelis said the latest study, which was published in the Public Library of Science Biology Journal, was a major breakthrough. "It’s very different, because these animals now receive feedback information," he said.
"They could learn to correct their errors and achieve a very high level of proficiency, using brain activity alone to reproduce reaching and grabbing hand movements.
"The results so far lead us to believe that these brain-machine interfaces hold enormous promise for restoring function to paralysed."
The group is now working with a small group of human patients but Dr Nicolelis said that there were no firm results from these experiments as yet.
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