Researchers at Duke University have taught a lab monkey to control the movement of a robotic arm, using only signals from its brain. The monkey’s immediate utilization of this new skill was to shower a group of neurobiologists with feces.
The Duke project is the first to demonstrate that a brain can learn to control signals from implanted microelectrodes, without any corresponding muscle movement.
Success was sudden and unexpected, said Dr. Nicolelis. "We had no idea kinetic skills would develop so quickly. One moment we were having lunch in the lab, the next moment we were covered with monkey shit."
The results have raised hopes that humans might one day be able to control complex devices with their minds. The experiment’s direction will be altered slightly to focus on more productive lower primate behavior.
Nicolelis said future tests would include riding a unicycle, stealing bananas, lighting cigarettes, painting abstract designs while wearing a beret, and hands-free auto-erotic stimulation.