Monkeys Use Brain Power, Not Hands, to 'Move' Virtual
WEDNESDAY, Oct. 5 (HealthDay News) -- Scientists who taught
monkeys to use their brains to move the virtual hands of an avatar
(a virtual body) and to identify the texture of virtual objects say
the experiment demonstrates the potential benefits of this
technology for people who've suffered crippling spinal
"Someday in the near future, quadriplegic patients will take advantage of this technology not only to move their arms and hands and to walk again, but also to sense the texture of objects placed in their hands, or experience the nuances of the terrain on which they stroll with the help of a wearable robotic exoskeleton," study leader Dr. Miguel Nicolelis, a professor of neurobiology at Duke University Medical Center and co-director of the Duke Center for Neuroengineering, said in a university news release.
The two monkeys learned how to use only their electrical brain
activity to direct the virtual hands of an avatar to the surface of
virtual objects. The monkeys were also able to differentiate the
textures of the virtual objects.
The virtual objects were visually identical, but had different
textures. These textures could only be detected through the virtual
hands. No part of the monkeys' real bodies were involved in the
operation of the brain-machine-brain interface, according to the
The study appears in the Oct. 5 issue of the journal
"This is the first demonstration of a brain-machine-brain interface (BMBI) that establishes a direct, bidirectional link between a brain and a virtual body," Nicolelis said in the release. "In this BMBI, the virtual body is controlled directly by the animal's brain activity, while its virtual hand generates tactile feedback information that is signaled via direct electrical microstimulation of another region of the animal's cortex.
"We hope that in the next few years this technology could help to restore a more autonomous life to many patients who are currently locked in without being able to move or experience any tactile sensation of the surrounding world," Nicolelis added.
The study was funded by the U.S. National Institutes of
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons offers an overview
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