Photo credit: Screenshot from Rajangam et al, 2016
By Tia Ghose
Monkeys equipped with wireless brain implants were able to control robotic wheelchairs using only their thoughts, according to a new study.
The brain waves of two rhesus macaques were used to direct motor commands on a motorized wheelchair. The monkeys were initially trained to navigate the wheelchair by simply watching it move, the researchers said. The new findings could one day improve the mobility of the most severely disabled people, such as those with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), who cannot even move a cheek or eye muscle, the scientists added.
“In some severely disabled people, even blinking is not possible,” Dr. Miguel Nicolelis, co-director of the Duke Center for Neuroengineering, said in a statement. “For them, using a wheelchair or device controlled by noninvasive measures like an EEG [electroencephalogram] — a device that monitors brain waves through electrodes on the scalp — may not be sufficient. We show clearly that if you have intracranial implants, you get better control of a wheelchair than with noninvasive devices.”
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