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Monkeys Learn to Control Robotic Arm With Brainwaves

Advances in brain-controlled prosthetics reached new heights as researchers at the University of Pittsburgh announced the successful use of a prosthetic arm linked directly to the brain of a monkey. Lead researcher Andrew Schwartz discusses the findings.

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  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    It's a remarkable feat of monkey and machine. Researchers reported today that a pair of monkeys learned how to control a robotic arm and feed themselves by using only their brainpower.

    Scientists in Pittsburgh reported in the journal Nature that they implanted tiny electrodes in the brains of this monkey and one other.

    As described in their paper, the electrodes were implanted in a part of the brain which controls movements. Signals from the brain were wired directly to a computer, which was attached to the robotic arm.

    The monkeys were able to control the robotic arm to bring them food, even as their own arms were restrained.

    By operating directly on the brain, this monkey-think-monkey-do experiment goes further than earlier efforts to create similar technologies for human patients with spinal cord and other injuries.

    Other avenues of research that are not connected with brain surgery have already been tried with humans and new prosthetics. All are imperfect and in the experimental stages.

    Now, scientists are looking at today's report to see whether they, too, can work directly on pathways to the brain.