A monkey learned to use the output of just one brain cell to move its wrist.

Published October 2008, IEEE Spectrum Online, Photo: James Martin/Getty Images

20 October 2008—For years, doctors have treated patients suffering from life-threatening heart blockages by adding new blood vessels that reroute blood around arterial traffic snarls. Researchers have been working on methods for doing an electronic bypass around a damaged spine with the aim of restoring movement to paralyzed limbs.
Though it will be years before spinal bypass surgery reaches even the clinical-experiment stage, researchers at the University of Washington (UW) and the Washington National Primate Research Center, both in Seattle, have figured out a way to get macaque monkeys in their lab to manipulate temporarily paralyzed muscles in their arms using brain-controlled electrical stimulation. In research reported last week in Nature, they describe what happened when they attached electrodes to neurons in a monkey’s motor cortex—the part of the brain that controls voluntary movement—and used fairly simple algorithms to translate activity in these cortical cells into electrical signals that tell muscles when, how much, and how forcefully to contract.
Read the full story at IEEE Spectrum online

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