Learning to use an implanted brain electrode to control a prosthetic or robotic arm might be easier than researchers thought, suggests a linkurl:study;http://www.plosbiology.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pbio.1000153 published online yesterday (21 July) in PLoS Biology. Ideally, the goal of a brain-machine interface is "to control the prosthetic naturally," said lead author linkurl:Jose Carmena;http://www.eecs.berkeley.edu/~carmena/ from the University of California, Berkeley. To date, though, controlling devices via an electrode implanted in the brain has taken considerable practice, often with inconsistent results.
Monkeys asked to move a cursor
between the center dot and
radial dots were proficient by day 13

Image: Jose Carmena, Karunesh Ganguly
and PLoS Biology
Brain-implanted neuroprosthetics use a computer algorithm to interpret the brain's impulses. But the standard practice with these implants is to reset the algorithm every day -- sometimes twice a day -- to adjust for neurons that move away from the electrodes. "It's one feature of the neuron that makes...

Interested in reading more?

Become a Member of

Receive full access to more than 35 years of archives, as well as TS Digest, digital editions of The Scientist, feature stories, and much more!
Already a member?