Facebook Blogging

Edward Hugh has a lively and enjoyable Facebook community where he publishes frequent breaking news economics links and short updates. If you would like to receive these updates on a regular basis and join the debate please invite Edward as a friend by clicking the Facebook link at the top of the right sidebar.

Monday, October 13, 2003

Danger: Monkeys at Work

The Kurzweilian world is getting nearer. Now the it's monkeys at work with the brain implants. Also note the little detail of Public Library of Science, a free access, peer reviewed journal. Hooray! (or should it be Yahoo?). All I need is some ironic reader to rell me that this is going to be the solution to our demographic problems.

Monkeys that can move a robot arm with thoughts alone have brought the merger of mind and machine one step closer.In experiments at Duke University, implants in the monkeys' brains picked up brain signals and sent them to a robotic arm, which carried out reaching and grasping movements on a computer screen driven only by the monkeys' thoughts.

The achievement is a significant advance in the continuing effort to devise thought-controlled machines that could be a great benefit for people who are paralyzed, or have lost control over their physical movements. In previous experiments, some in the same laboratory at Duke, both humans and monkeys have had their brains wired so they could move cursors on computer screens just by thinking about it. And wired monkeys have moved robot arms by making a motion with their own arms. The new research, however, involves thought-controlled robotic action that does not depend on physical movement by the monkey and that involves the complex muscular activities of reaching and grasping.

The study is being published today in the inaugural issue of The Public Library of Science, a peer-reviewed scientific journal that makes articles available free of charge. The research team was led by Dr. Miguel A. L. Nicolelis, a neurobiology professor and co-director of the Center for Neuroengineering at Duke, in North Carolina. Dr. Nicolelis also did the earlier research on monkeys and robot arms at Duke.While other laboratories have helped monkeys use thoughts to move robots, using different experimental designs, the Duke findings go furthest in the sense that their robots were mentally assimilated into the animals' brains.

"For nearly completely paralyzed people, this promises to be a fantastic boon," said Dr. Jon Kaas, a psychology professor at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, who is familiar with Dr. Nicolelis's research. "A person could control a computer or robot to do anything in real time, as fast as they can think."While experts agree that thought-controlled personal robots are many years off, the Duke University team recently showed that humans produce brain signals like those of the experimental monkeys.

"Monkeys not only use their brain activity to control a robot," said Dr. John Chapin, a professor of physiology and pharmacology at the State University of New York Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn. "They improve their performance with time. The stunning thing is that we can now see how this occurs, how neurons change their tuning as the monkey does different tasks."
Source: New York Times

No comments: