"And the stars are projectors, yeah, projecting our lives down to this planet Earth." - Modest Mouse
Nature reports that researchers at the California Institute of Technology have wired test monkeys to "think" a cursor around a computer screen. While similar experiments have been conducted wiring up from the motor cortex, this is the first time it's been done from the parietal lobe.
"It's the difference between thinking 'I want to move my hand to the right' and 'I want to reach for the water'," says Andersen. Devices that tap into the parietal cortex could, in theory, be used to reveal people's intentions and desires.Of course, it begs the question... (scroll down after link).
Three monkeys, who had wires inserted into their parietal cortex, were shown a flash of light on a computer screen. After a second of planning, the animals who touched the highlighted spot received a rewarding fruit-juice treat.
Andersen's team recorded the neural activity during the monkeys' thinking phase and identified certain electrical signals that related to planned movement. They then used powerful algorithms to recognise these signals and translate them into the movement of a cursor on the screen. Within a day, the monkeys had learned that thinking about their plan yielded a reward, when the cursor touched the flash of light, and they stopped touching the computer screen.
The team then altered the task to include a variety of reward types, sizes and frequencies. The researchers found they were able to predict what each monkey expected to get in return for thinking about the task.
"It's an exciting study," says John Donoghue, chief scientific officer of Cyberkinetics in Foxborough, Massachusetts, who is developing similar technology for human use. "They know what the monkey is going to do before it even does it."
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