Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Very spiffy neuroscience news

A research team at Duke has been working with monkeys and studying their ability to control a robot arm. First they implanted some very fine electrodes into the monkeys' brains and found that they could learn to control the arm through neural signals only. Second, they separated the action of the monkeys' own arms from that of the robotic arms by getting rid of the joystick -- the animals took a couple of days to discover that they could "reach" with the robotic arm while not moving their own arms. But they figured it out, in essence adding the new "limb" to their repetoire of personal tools.
"Mikhail's analysis of the brain signals associated with use of the robotic and animals' actual arms revealed that the animal was simultaneously doing one thing with its own arm and something else with the robotic arm," he said. "So, our hypothesis is that the adaptation of brain structures allows the expansion of capability to use an artificial appendage with no loss of function, because the animal can flip back and forth between using the two. Depending on the goal, the animal could use its own arm or the robotic arm, and in some cases both."
This is really neat in terms both of its clinical potential and in what it says about the adaptability of the (adult) primate brain.

(via boing boing)

No comments: