A monkey controlled a wheelchair with its brain alone

Studying the brain activity of babies. Oli Scarff/Getty Images

Researchers have built a machine-to-brain interface to control a powered wheelchair by the mind alone.

The wireless system allowing a monkey to control the movements of a robotic wheelchair is described in a report in the journal Scientific Reports.

The results of the research suggest that similar machine-to-brain interfaces may in the future be able to help restore mobility to severely paralysed people.

Machine-to-brain interfaces have previously been developed which allow primates to use cortical activity to control artificial limbs.

However, it wasn’t know whether recordings from cortical implants in the brain could be translated into whole-body movements.

The experiment. Image: Scientific Reports

Miguel Nicolelis of Duke University in the US and colleagues implanted two rhesus monkeys with multi-electrode arrays to make wireless recordings of cortical neurons in the brain.

The authors found that the machine-to-brain interface was able to translate the monkeys’ brain activity into directional movements in the wheelchair.

And over time the monkeys improved their ability to navigate.

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