One Monkey Controls Another, Avatar-Style

Brain, spine implants link animals' movements

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Feb 19, 2014 2:46 PM CST

(Newser) – In the movie Avatar, a paralyzed soldier uses a computer to control a body remotely. In a new study, scientists have moved a little closer to making that story a reality, LiveScience reports. US researchers installed electrodes into a "master" monkey's brain and an "avatar" monkey's spine. The avatar was sedated and had his hand put on a joystick, while the master—in a restraining chair, the Daily Mail notes—viewed a screen with a cursor linked to the joystick.

The master's goal was to move the cursor onto a target, and he did so as computers translated his brain activity into signals in the avatar's spine and muscles. Researchers see the work helping paralyzed people control their own bodies. Says a study author: "We envision putting a microchip into the brain to record the activity behind the intent for movement and putting another microchip in the spinal cord below the site of injury to stimulate limb movements—and then connecting the microchips."

This film publicity image released by 20th Century Fox shows the characters Neytiri, voiced by Zoe Saldana, right, and Jake, voiced by Sam Worthington, in a scene from 'Avatar.'
This film publicity image released by 20th Century Fox shows the characters Neytiri, voiced by Zoe Saldana, right, and Jake, voiced by Sam Worthington, in a scene from 'Avatar.'   (AP Photo/20th Century Fox, File)
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