Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Monkeys Steer Wheelchairs With Their Brains, Raising Hope for Paralyzed People

Brain-machine interfaces have become a buzzword in recent years, triggering headlines when, for example, Brown University's John Donoghue's human patients drank coffee and picked up objects with robotic arms controlled by brain-implanted electrodes.

At the meeting, Nicolelis also presented research on two rhesus monkeys that had electrodes implanted deep in their brains that, with training, allowed the animals to steer a wheelchair using thought alone. The goal of that research is partly to help develop a "brain pacemaker" implant that would pick up clearer signals from thoughts to help control future robotic prosthetics.

Signals from deep in the brain are much easier for devices to read than ones picked up by electrical skin sensors on patient's skulls. Such implants made the monkeys relatively quick students at wheelchair driving. "They can reliably steer the wheelchair to get a grape," Nicolelis said. "They like grapes."

Full story here.

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