Monkey Controls Sedated Primate Pal Using its Mind in Avatar-Like Experiment

By Gerald Lynch on at

Scientists have been able to make one monkey control the body of another sedated primate test subject, in an experiment that may offer hope to those suffering from paralysis.

Harking back to the 3D flick Avatar (in which a man is able to fluidly control an alien body using mind control), scientists from Harvard Medical School inserted a chip capable of measuring up to 100 neurons into the brain of a "master" monkey, and 36 electrodes in the spinal cord of another "puppet" monkey. Patterns of electricity in the master monkey's brain were then aligned with the physical movements they produced, and used to stimulate a similar response in the sedated monkey. In a test which saw the master monkey encouraged to think about moving an onscreen cursor while the other held a joystick controlling the cursor's movement, scientists found that the master could control the avatar's arm 98 per cent of the time.

The successful tests are thought to be the first step towards full body movements being made possible through mind control and electrode implants. While that's someway off from happening, the research may eventually lead to a time when those suffering from disabilities or spinal injuries could enjoy a significantly improved quality of life. [Nature Communications via BBC]

Image Credit: Monkey from