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Brainy monkeys play games


Dark blue icons of video game controllers on a light blue background
Image credit: Eurogamer

We like monkeys around here. Who doesn't like monkeys? Right you, out, leave the rest of us monkey lovers in peace. For the rest of you, we bring great news that our hairy little friends may well be joining us on the sofa for a spot of PES3 in the coming years, thanks to the advances of science.

Well… okay, that's taking it a bit far. Reuters reports that a team led by Dr. Miguel Nicolelis at Duke University in North Carolina has managed to get a monkey to move a robotic arm by thought process alone, and play a game thanks to visual feedback allowing the monkey to correct her errors. Three years ago, the team had a monkey moving the robotic arm but she was still attempting to control the machine with her own arm. The team cracked it when the monkey realised she didn't need to move at all any more. Experiments began with monkeys controlling a videogame, moving a cursor about the screen with a joystick. According to Nicolelis the monkeys enjoyed playing the game, and we can expect a PS2 port later in the year.

The monkeys are able to do this thanks to microelectrode implants - smaller than the diameter of a human hair - which are implanted into frontal and perietal lobes where the brain is known to command muscular movement.

Naturally the research will go on to develop alternative prosthetic limbs for those suffering from paralysis, and to this end the team has begun working with a small team of human patients. However, rumours that Nintendo has approached Nicolelis with regard to utilising the technology for the successor to the Wavebird wireless controller were made up by me just now.

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