Monkey Mind Control
How many science fiction movies have you seen were monkeys rule the world? Like five. They put humans in cages and have advanced medicine and technology. We sit there in our movie seats eating our day- old popcorn laughing at how cute those furry monkeys are and saying to ourselves, “This could never happen.” And that is what the monkey cyborgs of the future want us to think.
Scientists at Duke University Medical Center have conducted a study where a monkey is connected to a computer. Not with a mouse and a keyboard, but with the computer hardwired to his brain. That’s right. You read it correctly. Brain! The monkey was asked to do a series of events. One was mainly to select a specific object on the screen. These monkeys were trained to move an on- screen arm and virtually feel the object’s texture to know which object was the right one to pick. They connected one in the motor cortex, the part of the brain that controls movement, and the somatosensory cortex, the part of the brain that perceives touch.
This allowed the brain and the computer to communicate just like the natural brain-body feedback loop. The monkey was shown three virtual objects that looked the same but each object “felt” a little different. The monkey’s task was to select the object that felt different. If the monkey selected correctly, the monkey was rewarded with juice. The monkey quickly learned which item felt different and consistently made the correct choice. Researchers hope that one day this technology can be used to better the lives of people using prosthetics. With this technology people will be able to move their prosthetic using only their brain and be able to feel the world around them.
Ok, so maybe there won’t be any cyborg monkeys banging down your front door to raid your pantry for bananas in the near future, but you would have to admit, the gap between science fiction and science fact is getting pretty small. At the same time, it might not be a bad idea to start hoarding bananas just in case they become a world currency in the next twenty years. For more on the