Duke University neuroscientist Miguel Nicolelis recently presented his latest research on two rhesus monkeys that had electrodes implanted deep in their brains. The electrodes allowed the monkeys to steer a wheelchair using thought alone.Signals from deep in the brain are much easier for devices to read than ones picked up by electrical skin sensors on patient’s skulls. Such implants made the monkeys relatively quick students at wheelchair driving. “They can reliably steer the wheelchair to get a grape,” Nicolelis said said in a National Geographic report. “They like grapes.”
The goal of that research is partly to help develop a “brain pacemaker” implant that would pick up clearer signals from thoughts to help control future robotic prosthetics. Each year 130,000 people suffer spinal cord injuries worldwide, and for more than a decade, researchers have sought to help these patients using robotic interfaces with the brain. The findings of the research were presented to the Society for Neuroscience (SfN) conference in Washington, DC.
Earlier this year a full body robotic suit, created within the Walk Again Project, helped a paralyzed man to kick off the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. The historical kick-off was the result of an international collaborative effort involving 150 researchers led by Dr. Miguel Nicolelis.