From Discovery Health News (5.29.08):
Relying solely on brain signal manipulation, monkeys have learned to operate human-like robotic arms to feed themselves, U.S. researchers reported Wednesday.
This cutting-edge development in the field of neuroprosthetics was made possible by linking up neural pathways in the voluntary movement region of the monkey's brain to a specially designed computer software program. In turn, the monkey's mental "firings" were turned into fluid and natural prosthetic movements -- enabling arm-restrained primates to grip and eat marshmallows and fruit with a claw-like robotic hand.
"This a step on the way to fully mobile arms and dexterous prosthetic hand that will be controlled with brain activity recorded directly from the individual brain cells," said the study's lead author, Andrew Schwartz, a professor of neurobiology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
The research, published Wednesday in the online edition of Nature, is being touted as a significant advance towards designing functional prosthetic devices for fully paralyzed individuals.