Thursday, May 29, 2008

Robo-Monkey Brings Hope To Amputees

Researchers have created a brain implant that allows monkeys to feed themselves using a robotic arm just by thinking about it. The device could one day be used to help paralyzed people to operate prosthetic limbs that might enable them to eat, drink or use other utensils for themselves.

The research recently published in the scientific journal Nature, is the first to show that an interface that converts brain signals directly into actions is sophisticated enough to perform a practical function: eating.

Researchers who led the work have just begun human tests of a related technology.

"It's the first time a monkey--or a human--is directly, with their brain, controlling a real prosthetic arm," says Krishna Shenoy, a neuroscientist at Stanford University who was not involved in the research.

The arm is controlled by a network of tiny electrodes called a brain–machine interface, implanted into the motor cortex of the monkeys' brains — the region that controls movement. It picks up the signals of brain cells as they generate commands to move, and converts those into directional signals for the robotic arm.


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