News / Science & Technology

Monkeys Use Their Minds to Move Virtual Arms

Large-scale brain activity from a rhesus monkey was decoded and used to simultaneously control reaching movements of both arms of a virtual monkey avatar towards spherical objects in virtual reality. Photo: Duke Center for Neuroengineering
Large-scale brain activity from a rhesus monkey was decoded and used to simultaneously control reaching movements of both arms of a virtual monkey avatar towards spherical objects in virtual reality. Photo: Duke Center for Neuroengineering
Jessica Berman
Researchers have developed an interface between a monkey’s brains and a machine that could eventually be used to allow someone with a spinal cord injury to control an artificial arm or leg simply by thinking about it. 
 
Initially, interfaces developed by researchers at Duke University’s Center for Neuroengineering in Durham, North Carolina, could control only a single prosthetic limb.
 
Now, the scientists have developed an interface that allows rhesus monkeys to move two arms at the same time, as they watch an avatar - a likeness of themselves - on a computer screen. 


Virtual monkey avatar shown from a 3rd person perspective as the movements of the two arms are decoded in real-time from the brain of a rhesus monkey. In the experiment the virtual arms and 3D target objects appear on the screen from a first-person perspective to the monkey, who receives a juice reward for correctly performed trials. Source: Duke Center for Neuroengineering
 
 
Neurobiology professor Miguel Nicolelis said the monkeys first learned to control the avatar with a pair of joysticks, but then were trained to stay completely still.
 
“They are trained not to move their arms,” Nicolelis said.  “They are trained just to imagine the movements.  And we get the signals from both parts of their brains - both hemispheres - to be routed to a computer that’s running a computer algorithm that translates their voluntary will to move into movements of a virtual body.”
 
Researchers measured the activity of 500 neurons in two monkeys involved in the planning of motor behaviors from multiple areas in both of their brain's cerebral hemispheres. Nicolelis said this neural activity is much more complicated than that involved in moving each arm separately.
 
As the monkeys became more skilled at using their brains to move their virtual arms, researchers saw signs of brain plasticity or neuronal growth, a possible sign the monkeys were incorporating the virtual arms into their own mental image.
 
Nicolelis said scientists are now developing a brain-controlled neuroprosthetic vest to allow the wearer to control prosthetic devices.  The device translates the electrical signals from the brain into motor commands and eventually digital signals that a machine inside the vest can read.
 
Nicolelis said the vest will be unveiled at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
 
“And we hope to make a demonstration during the opening ceremony by having a young paraplegic, a Brazilian adult, to walk into the field using this vest, wearing this vest, controlled by brain activity and being in charge of the opening kick-off of the World Cup,” he said.
 
The vest could potentially help people with spinal cord injuries, and also paralysis caused by a number of diseases.
 
An article on rhesus monkeys using their minds to control virtual arms is published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

You May Like

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: rodrigo machado from: rio de janeiro brazil
November 10, 2013 6:17 PM
how wonderful to know that Science can help improvimg and saving people's life.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More