November 8, 2013
Monkeys have been given the ability to control two virtual arms simultaneously using thought alone. The same technology might soon give people who are paralysed control of an exoskeleton that they can move with their mind.
Monkeys and humans have previously controlled a single prosthetic arm using their thoughts. It is done using electrodes placed in the brain, which recognise specific patterns of electric activity that occur when a person thinks about moving. This pattern is then translated into actual movement in the prosthesis.
Until now, though, it has only been possible to control a single limb this way. That is because when the brain thinks about moving both arms at once, the activity is not merely a sum of what you might see if you moved each arm individually, but a completely different pattern.