Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Monkey's brain signals control 'third arm' - 13 October 2003 - New Scientist

Monkey's brain signals control 'third arm' - 13 October 2003 - New Scientist

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.

One such type of device is a neurally-controlled prosthetic - a brain-controlled false limb. Nicolelis says his team's work is important because it has shown that prosthetics can only deliver precision movements if multiple parts of the brain are monitored and visual feedback is provided.

Gerald Loeb, a biomedical engineer at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, says the new experiment already has some parallels in everyday life. For example, he says, when you drive a car it becomes an extension of your body.

But Nicolelis says the monkeys appeared to be treating the robot arm as their limb, not an extension. "The properties of the robot were being assimilated as if they were a property of the animal's own body."

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