BMBI Enables Monkey’s Brain To Control And Feel Virtual Body (+VIDEO)
A team of neuroengineers led by Miguel Nicolelis at the Duke University has designed a bidirectional brain-machine interface (BMBI) to test on monkeys. The demonstration on non-human primates was successful: monkeys can use this brain implant to control a virtual hand and to get feedback that tricks their brains into feeling the texture of virtual objects. The brain-machine-brain interface sets up a direct, bidirectional connection between a brain and a virtual body; the latter is being directly controlled by the animal’s brain activity. The virtual hand generates tactile feedback information that is signaled via direct electrical microstimulation of another region of the animal’s cortex. Using only their brains, monkeys were able to direct their avatar hand over the surfaces of several virtual objects and differentiate between their textures. Research workers would reward monkeys for selecting objects with a specific texture. It took one monkey four attempts and the other monkey nine attempts to learn how to choose the right object during each trial. Some day this technology could allow humans to use prosthetic limbs (or even robotic exoskeletons) to actually feel objects. The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health.