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Human Enhancement

Technology Makes Movement by Thought Possible

16 years, 7 months ago

3290  0
Posted on Sep 22, 2002, 12 p.m. By Bill Freeman

Researchers have managed to make a monkey move a cursor on a computer screen by the power of thought. It is thought that such technology could enable totally paralysed patients to operate robotic devices such as a robotic arm, or a computer. Daniella Meeker and her colleagues first looked at MRI scans of the brain to determine which sections of a part of the monkey's brain called the posterior parietal cortex were responsible for certain body movements, they then implanted electrodes into the area.

Researchers have managed to make a monkey move a cursor on a computer screen by the power of thought. It is thought that such technology could enable totally paralysed patients to operate robotic devices such as a robotic arm, or a computer. Daniella Meeker and her colleagues first looked at MRI scans of the brain to determine which sections of a part of the monkey's brain called the posterior parietal cortex were responsible for certain body movements, they then implanted electrodes into the area. After analysing the monkey's brain as it touched dots on a touch-sensitive computer screen, the researchers then trained the monkey to think about a movement without touching the screen. By hooking a computer that interpreted the monkey's thoughts up to the implanted electrodes, the monkey was then able to move the cursor, simply by thinking about it! Meeker believes that the same technology could eventually help totally paralysed or so-called "locked-in" patients, "Restoring even the most rudimentary communication or motor function to such patients will drastically improve their quality of life," she said.

According to Meeker, the technology she has developed is over 90% accurate, however she believes that technology capable of carrying out much more complex movements such as willing a robotic arm to write is decades away from reality. The real dream for scientists like Meeker is making real the science fiction technology of so-called "Terminator"-type technology where complex problems such as driving a car through traffic or flying an aeroplane can be carried out by thought alone. Meeker believes that the largest obstacle facing such technology is brain surgery, which at present is always a risky procedure. "This kind of technology could save the life of a locked-in patient, but has the potential to kill a healthy pilot if something went wrong," she said.

SOURCE/REFERENCE: Reported by www.reutershealth.com on the 30th January 2002

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