Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Monkeys 'move and feel' virtual objects using only their brains

Date:
October 6, 2011
Source:
Duke University Medical Center
Summary:
In a first ever demonstration of a two-way interaction between a primate brain and a virtual body, two trained monkeys learned to employ brain activity alone to move an avatar hand and identify the texture of virtual objects.

Without moving any part of their real bodies, the monkeys used their electrical brain activity to direct the virtual hands of an avatar to the surface of virtual objects and, upon contact, were able to differentiate their textures.
Credit: Image courtesy of Duke Center for Neuroengineering

In a first ever demonstration of a two-way interaction between a primate brain and a virtual body, two monkeys trained at the Duke University Center for Neuroengineering learned to employ brain activity alone to move an avatar hand and identify the texture of virtual objects.

"Someday in the near future, quadriplegic patients will take advantage of this technology not only to move their arms and hands and to walk again, but also to sense the texture of objects placed in their hands, or experience the nuances of the terrain on which they stroll with the help of a wearable robotic exoskeleton," said Miguel Nicolelis, M.D., Ph.D., professor of neurobiology at Duke University Medical Center and co-director of the Duke Center for Neuroengineering, who was senior author of the study.

Without moving any part of their real bodies, the monkeys used their electrical brain activity to direct the virtual hands of an avatar to the surface of virtual objects and, upon contact, were able to differentiate their textures.

Although the virtual objects employed in this study were visually identical, they were designed to have different artificial textures that could only be detected if the animals explored them with virtual hands controlled directly by their brain's electrical activity.

The texture of the virtual objects was expressed as a pattern of minute electrical signals transmitted to the monkeys' brains. Three different electrical patterns corresponded to each of three different object textures.

Because no part of the animal's real body was involved in the operation of this brain-machine-brain interface (BMBI), these experiments suggest that in the future patients severely paralyzed due to a spinal cord lesion may take advantage of this technology, not only to regain mobility, but also to have their sense of touch restored, said Nicolelis, who was senior author of the study published in the journal Nature on Oct. 5.

"This is the first demonstration of a brain-machine-brain interface that establishes a direct, bidirectional link between a brain and a virtual body," Nicolelis said. "In this BMBI, the virtual body is controlled directly by the animal's brain activity, while its virtual hand generates tactile feedback information that is signaled via direct electrical microstimulation of another region of the animal's cortex."

"We hope that in the next few years this technology could help to restore a more autonomous life to many patients who are currently locked in without being able to move or experience any tactile sensation of the surrounding world," Nicolelis said.

"This is also the first time we've observed a brain controlling a virtual arm that explores objects while the brain simultaneously receives electrical feedback signals that describe the fine texture of objects 'touched' by the monkey's newly acquired virtual hand," Nicolelis said. "Such an interaction between the brain and a virtual avatar was totally independent of the animal's real body, because the animals did not move their real arms and hands, nor did they use their real skin to touch the objects and identify their texture. It's almost like creating a new sensory channel through which the brain can resume processing information that cannot reach it anymore through the real body and peripheral nerves."

The combined electrical activity of populations of 50-200 neurons in the monkey's motor cortex controlled the steering of the avatar arm, while thousands of neurons in the primary tactile cortex were simultaneously receiving continuous electrical feedback from the virtual hand's palm that let the monkey discriminate between objects, based on their texture alone.

"The remarkable success with non-human primates is what makes us believe that humans could accomplish the same task much more easily in the near future," Nicolelis said.

It took one monkey only four attempts and another nine attempts before they learned how to select the correct object during each trial. Several tests demonstrated that the monkeys were actually sensing the object and not selecting them randomly.

The findings provide further evidence that it may be possible to create a robotic exoskeleton that severely paralyzed patients could wear in order to explore and receive feedback from the outside world, Nicolelis said. Such an exoskeleton would be directly controlled by the patient's voluntary brain activity in order to allow the patient to move autonomously. Simultaneously, sensors distributed across the exoskeleton would generate the type of tactile feedback needed for the patient's brain to identify the texture, shape and temperature of objects, as well as many features of the surface upon which they walk.

This overall therapeutic approach is the one chosen by the Walk Again Project, an international, non-profit consortium, established by a team of Brazilian, American, Swiss, and German scientists, which aims at restoring full body mobility to quadriplegic patients through a brain-machine-brain interface implemented in conjunction with a full-body robotic exoskeleton.

The international scientific team recently proposed to carry out its first public demonstration of such an autonomous exoskeleton during the opening game of the 2014 FIFA Soccer World Cup that will be held in Brazil.

Other authors include Joseph E. O'Doherty, Mikhail A. Lebedev, Peter J. Ifft, Katie Z. Zhuang, all from the Duke University Center for Neuroengineering and Solaiman Shokur, and Hannes Bleuler from the Ecole Polytechnic Federale de Lausanne (EPFL), in Lausanne, Switzerland.

This work was funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

A video illustrating the experiment is available at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WTTTwvjCa5g


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Duke University Medical Center. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Joseph E. O’Doherty, Mikhail A. Lebedev, Peter J. Ifft, Katie Z. Zhuang, Solaiman Shokur, Hannes Bleuler, Miguel A. L. Nicolelis. Active tactile exploration using a brain–machine–brain interface. Nature, 2011; DOI: 10.1038/nature10489

Cite This Page:

Duke University Medical Center. "Monkeys 'move and feel' virtual objects using only their brains." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 October 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111005131648.htm>.
Duke University Medical Center. (2011, October 6). Monkeys 'move and feel' virtual objects using only their brains. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111005131648.htm
Duke University Medical Center. "Monkeys 'move and feel' virtual objects using only their brains." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111005131648.htm (accessed July 23, 2014).

Share This




More Computers & Math News

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Google Plans To Speed Up Web Pages With New Image Format

Google Plans To Speed Up Web Pages With New Image Format

Newsy (July 21, 2014) Google is using compressed images in WebP format to help boost page loading times. The files are 25-to-34 percent smaller than PNGs and JPEGs. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Uruguayan Creates Chess Game for Multiple Opponents

Uruguayan Creates Chess Game for Multiple Opponents

AFP (July 19, 2014) It no longer takes two to play chess – or at least according to a new version of the game invented by Uruguayan Gabriel Baldi, where up to four opponents can play. Duration: 00:31 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Clock Ticks Down on Internet Speed Debate

Clock Ticks Down on Internet Speed Debate

Reuters - US Online Video (July 18, 2014) The FCC received more than 800,000 comments on whether and how internet speeds should be regulated, even crashing its system. Lily Jamali reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Google Won't Call Games With In-App Add-Ons Free, Apple Will

Google Won't Call Games With In-App Add-Ons Free, Apple Will

Newsy (July 18, 2014) The European Commission asked Google and Apple not to label apps "free" if they include in-app purchases. Google has complied; Apple has resisted. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins