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[UPDATE - Human Trial] - Monkey brains 'feel' virtual objects

Macaques use a brain-controlled virtual hand to identify artificial texture of objects.

An international team of researchers has developed a brain implant that enables monkeys to examine virtual objects by means of a virtual arm controlled by their brain. The device represents the next step towards the development of prosthetic limbs or robotic suits that would allow users to interact with their world without depending entirely on visual feedback.

The researchers, led by Miguel Nicolelis of Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, inserted electrodes into the motor cortex and somatosensory cortex of two monkeys. The motor cortex is the brain region involved in performing voluntary movement, whereas the somatosensory cortex processes input received from cells in the body that are sensitive to, among other sensory experiences, touch.

The monkeys were trained to use only their brain to explore virtual objects on a computer screen by moving a virtual image of an arm. Electrodes in the motor cortex recorded the monkeys' intentions to move and relayed that information to the virtual world. As the virtual hand passed over objects on the screen, electrical signals were fed into the animal's somatosensory cortex, providing 'tactile' feedback.
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Man with Spinal Cord Injury Uses Brain Computer Interface to Move Prosthetic Arm with His Thoughts

New Trial Underway at University of Pittsburgh, UPMC

PITTSBURGH, Oct. 10, 2011 – Seven years after a motorcycle accident damaged his spinal cord and left him paralyzed, 30-year-old Tim Hemmes reached up to touch hands with his girlfriend in a painstaking and tender high-five.

Mr. Hemmes, of Evans City, Pa., is the first to participate in a new trial assessing whether the thoughts of a person with spinal cord injury can be used to control the movement of an external device, such as a computer cursor or a sophisticated prosthetic arm. The project, one of two brain-computer interface (BCI) studies underway at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and UPMC Rehabilitation Institute, used a grid of electrodes placed on the surface of the brain to control the arm.

It was a unique robotic arm and hand, designed by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, that Mr. Hemmes willed to extend first toward the palm of a researcher on the team and a few minutes later, to his girlfriend’s hand.

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TAGGED: MEDICINE, TECHNOLOGY


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