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Implants in Brains of Monkeys Control Robotic Arm Movements

SCIENCE FILE / An exploration of issues and trends
affecting science, medicine and the environment | Science
in Brief

November 16, 2000

Duke University researchers have wired the brains of monkeys to control robotic arms -- a feat that could one day allow paralyzed people to move artificial arms and legs merely by thinking.

In the experiments, 96 wires, each half the thickness of a human hair, were connected to six areas of one animal's brain, while 32 wires were connected to two areas of the second monkey's brain. The robotic arms performed simple to-and-fro movements similarly with each monkey. But they performed three-dimensional movements better when directed by the monkey with more implants.

Such wiring could one day enable people to bypass the damage and send impulses directly to their muscles. "It is in the realm of reality. It is not science fiction any more," said Duke University researcher Miguel Nicolelis.

The Duke researchers' findings were reported in today's issue of the journal Nature.

--Compiled by Times medical writer Thomas H. Maugh II

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