Computer Screen Controlled with Monkeys’ Brain Signals

March 18, 2002 | Source: BBC News

Researchers at Brown University have demonstrated that brain patterns can be used to control machines. The development could lead to techniques that allow paraplegics to articulate artificial limbs through thought alone.In the experiment, which resembled a computer game, monkeys initially used a joystick to chase red and purple dots around a screen.

Then, unknown to the monkeys, the joystick was disconnected — but the animals were still able to control the dots using only thought.

How? The monkeys’ brains had been implanted with pea-sized electrodes that recorded signals from an area of the brain that controls movement, called the motor cortex.

While the monkeys moved the joystick, the recorded brain signals were analyzed with a mathematical formula and translated.

Scientists then fed these signals into the computer, which recognized them as directions.

Mijail Serruya, who led the Brown University scientists, said: “Our goal is to make sense of how brain [signals] move a hand through space and to use that information as a control signal for someone who is paralyzed.”

Researchers say this particular experiment is groundbreaking: The thin wires used significantly reduced bulkiness and successfully measured fewer neurons than in previous experiments.