The way technology has seeped into every aspect of our daily lives is nothing short of amazing. Today, it is very easy to communicate with whoever you want, wherever in the world they may be, at the press of a button. Not only this, but technology has also made innovative leaps in many other fields of life, including transportation, entertainment, and of course, medicine.
It's very interesting to see technology being designed to help people with mobility issues. Now, for individuals with quadriplegia, it seems like technology may soon have some good news.
Monkeys Moving Wheelchairs
Who could have thought that a monkey would be able to control a wheelchair with his or her mind? But that's exactly what's happened, thanks to the research and experiments led by scientists at the Center of Neuroengineering in Duke University.
The experiment, though seemingly simple, was ingenious. Two rhesus monkeys were placed in wheelchairs, with some grapes set out in front of them. Then the researchers, using electrodes, recorded the brain activity of the monkeys who wanted the chair to move in the direction of the grapes. This neurological activity was recorded various times to acquire a predictable pattern that would then be used to move the wheelchair at will.
After the pattern was recorded, the researchers programmed the wheelchair so that it would move towards the grapes when it detected this pattern. The experiment was a success when researchers saw the wheelchairs being controlled by what was going on in the monkeys’ minds.
Kiwi and Mango – Pioneers of the Monkey World
Kiwi and Mango are the two rhesus monkeys who made this feat possible. Thanks to their experience in working with scientists on such experiments, there was no need for the researchers to be worried about the monkeys not being cooperative. The monkeys are such good learners that there wasn’t even any need to strap them down into the wheelchairs. They just understood that they were not allowed to get up and grab the grapes themselves.
Thanks to their behavior, a good amount of neurological information was recorded. This information then allowed the wheelchair to detect whenever the monkeys wanted it to move in the direction of the grapes.
Good News for the People
Having monkeys move wheelchairs with their minds could be a huge leap forward in the world of medicine. It could help those people who have lost control over their limbs to move about without external help. All these individuals would need to do is think about getting to a certain place, and their wheelchairs would take them there. A lot of data and neurological responses will have to be recorded first, of course, but this experiment is a step in the right direction. And according to the people leading the project, achieving these kinds of results among humans will be even easier than it was with monkeys, as humans will be able to actually tell the researchers what they are thinking about in the first place.