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Monkey Moves Robot Using Mind Control

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posted on Jul, 13 2009 @ 04:24 AM
A monkey fitted with a hi-tech brain chip has learned to move a complex robotic arm using mind control.

The chip implant allows the monkey to manipulate the arm by thought

The animal can operate the robot with such dexterity that it can reach out to grab, and turn a handle.

The mechanical arm has an arm, elbow, wrist and simple hand, which the monkey controls with the power of thought.

Sky News was given exclusive access to the laboratory at Pittsburgh University in the United States.

The research is progressing so rapidly that scientists hope to start trials on paralysed patients within a year.

Neurobiologist Dr Andy Schwartz said: "What we're trying to do is go to a very dextrous hand - where the functionality is very similar to the human hand. If we could help stroke patients there would be a huge market for this kind of device."

They also hope to help patients who have been paralysed by spinal chord injuries or degenerative diseases of the nervous system.

Electrodes implanted in the monkey's motor cortex, the brain's movement control centre, pick up pulses within individual neurones.

The signals are relayed to a computer which analyses their pattern and strength to gauge what the monkey is trying to do. It then translates the signals to alter the speed and direction of the robotic arm.

The system is so quick that if the arm overshoots the monkey's intended target, it can rapidly correct the movement.

Dr Schwartz told Sky News: "It's pretty amazing because monkeys aren't used to moving tools.

Monkeys known for their intelligence

"We use them all the time. Imagine you're moving your arm to get that piece of food. Conveying that to a monkey is pretty difficult, yet the monkey learns it fairly rapidly.

"As the days go by, you see the monkeys start using it as if it is part of their own body."

The monkey cannot feel the electrodes in its brain, and did not appear to be distressed by the wires leading from a socket on its head.

At Brown University in New England, scientists have just started the first clinical trials of a similar device. Braingate allows tetraplegic patients to control a computer cursor by thinking about moving their paralysed hand.

Matthew Nagel took part in the first tests of a prototype. Before he died of an unrelated infection, he described how the Braingate device gave him back some freedom.

"I can't put it into words. I just use my brain. I said: 'cursor go up to the top right' and it did. And now I can control it all over the screen. It's wild," he said.

The new trial will be on 15 patients. Scientists hope to prove that the technology is safe and effective enough to use on a wider scale.

Head of the research, Professor John Donoghue, said the ultimate aim is for patients to regain control of their own limbs, which are more sophisticated than any robotic arm.

He told Sky News: "Our goal with Braingate is to have a physical replacement for a broken biological nervous system.

"So we'd like to have a physical system that senses what's going on in the brain, takes those signals inside your body and routes them off to the muscles, so when you think, you move.

"That's just what you or I do, so one day you could be sitting here with a person and you wouldn't know if they had the system or not."


[edit on 13-7-2009 by The Blind Watchmaker]

posted on Jul, 13 2009 @ 05:20 AM
Awesome, monkey with robot-arms is so sweet..

Wonder if it works on other animals ???

I'd like it if my cat could get this system and could vacuum-clean my house..


[edit on 13-7-2009 by ChemBreather]

posted on Jul, 13 2009 @ 06:21 AM

Originally posted by The Blind Watchmaker

[edit on 13-7-2009 by The Blind Watchmaker]

For some reason that's a funny and sad picture at the same time.

posted on Jul, 13 2009 @ 09:09 AM
Yeah I agree actually. It's kind of distrubing to see the monkey taken from his natural environment and used for our technological gains.

Sky news showed a video of the monkey operating the machine. I don't quite understand why he's got a yellow cloth on his head, maybe his brains exposed underneath it?!

Anyway the monkey did look quite relaxed and focused its eyes on the arm as he was moving it. It looked like he believed that the robot arm was his own! Kind of spooky.

posted on Jul, 13 2009 @ 09:58 AM
Wow. This is similar to but more advanced than a story from a few years ago where monkeys were taught to move a mouse cursor on a computer screen with their thoughts with some similar sort of technology.

This work has obvious benefits for paralyzed people, and I can see it being of use in some industrial situations perhaps, also. I just can't help wondering what sort of nefarious things it might be used for. Something about this just seems rather creepy to me, somehow, but I can't put my finger on what exactly.

posted on Jul, 13 2009 @ 07:52 PM
Someone finally uploaded the video footage from sky news...

[edit on 13-7-2009 by The Blind Watchmaker]

posted on Jul, 14 2009 @ 01:43 AM
reply to post by DragonsDemesne

Yeah, there is something creepy about it.

posted on Jul, 15 2009 @ 11:45 PM
No way, that Monkey is prob loving life, I mean he is the one doing it. Of course they forced that monkey into the process, but it is he that is complying and actually moving a freaking robotic arm! This is the coolest thing since sliced bread, hands down!


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