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In work inspired partly by the movie "Avatar," one monkey could control the body of another monkey using thought alone by connecting the brain of the puppet-master monkey to the spine of the other through a prosthesis, researchers say.
The monkey that served as the master had electrodes wired into his brain, while the monkey that served as the avatar had electrodes wired into his spine. The avatar's hand was placed onto a joystick that controlled a cursor displayed on the master's screen.
The avatar monkey was sedated so that he had no control over his own body. Computers decoded the brain activity of the master monkey and relayed those signals to the spinal cord and muscles of the avatar monkey. This allowed the master to control the cursor by moving the hand of the avatar. The master received a reward of juice if he successfully moved the cursor onto a target.
"This is just a proof-of-concept," Williams said. "We only had the monkeys aim for a few targets at a time — to be clinically useful, we'd have to be able to cause many different movements in space for fine motor control. Still, we think in principle that is possible."