Monkey Mind Control
What does a rhesus monkey and a the Blockbuster Hollywood film Avatar have in common?
They both use mind control to operate an ‘Avatar’.
Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital placed a neural implant on the ‘master’ monkey that could monitor up to 100 neurons, this allowed the ‘master’ money to control a second ‘avatar’ monkey.
To test this. they trained the ‘master’ monkey to use a joystick and find a target on the screen.
During this time the electrical signals recorded by the implant were matched up to the different movements. This gave the baseline for how the neurons fired.
The ‘avatar’ monkey had 36 electrodes implanted into the spinal cord, then tests were done to see how different stimulus created different movements. The scientists could not justify permanently paralyzing the ‘avatar’ monkey, so instead it was just sedated.
With the previous data collected the scientist connected the monkeys in a way to allow the brain scans from the master monkey to control the avatar monkey in real time.
The sedated monkey was given a controller and the master monkey had to ‘think’ about moving the cursor to the target.
The results were astounding, over 98% of the time the master monkey was able to move the cursor controlled by the avatar monkey; other tests and controls were set up in order to make sure that the cursor was not being moved to the target by some other unknown method of action.
Going from science fiction to science fact…
We are still [unfortunately], a long way off from actually being able to restore the movement of a paralyzed person, but this research is leaps and bounds in the right direction.
Does this mean we have to worry about mind controlled people doing things against their own will?
Not quite, Prof Christopher James was quick to point out that the technology was in it’s infancy:“Whilst the control of limbs is sophisticated, it is still rather crude overall, plus of course in an able-bodied person their own control over their limbs remains anyway, so no-one is going to control anyone else’s body against their wishes any time soon.”
So while it may be in the future, it is an exciting to see the mysteries of the human body being unraveled and explored. This research gives hope that one day, in the not too long from now, people who suffered different forms of paralysis might actually gain full function of their bodies once more.