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Biotech Science

Single Neuron Wired To Muscle Un-Paralyzes Monkeys 180

Posted by samzenpus
from the gentlemen-we-can-rebuild-him dept.
GalaticGrub writes "A pair of paralyzed monkeys regained the ability to move their arms after researchers wired individual neurons to the monkeys' arm muscles. A team of researchers at the University of Washington temporarily paralyzed each monkey's arm, then rerouted brain signals from a single neuron in the motor cortex around the blocked nerve pathway via a computer. When the neuron fired above a certain rate, the computer translated the signal into a jolt of electricity to the arm muscle, causing it to contract. The monkeys practiced moving their arms by playing a video game."
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Single Neuron Wired To Muscle Un-Paralyzes Monkeys

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  • Sucky job (Score:5, Funny)

    by Hatta (162192) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @09:57PM (#25393491) Journal

    Who's the grad student who had to break those monkeys spines?

    • by FSWKU (551325) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @10:10PM (#25393603)
      No grad students were involved. They simply told the RIAA that the monkeys were sharing the new Metallica album on all the major P2P networks. The Schutzstaffel...err... RIAA legal team took care of the rest.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by remmelt (837671)

        Wow.

        Second post and you already invoked Godwin's law, and even on a party totally unrelated to the post.

        My hat is off to you.

    • Re:Sucky job (Score:5, Insightful)

      by couchslug (175151) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @10:43PM (#25393815)

      "Who's the grad student who had to break those monkeys spines?"

      The subjects were actually grad students costumed as monkeys.
      Lab monkeys are too valuable to use.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Actually, they used members of a Congressional committee tasked with investigating executive branch wrongdoing...

        So, spines weren't an issue.

    • Re:Sucky job (Score:5, Insightful)

      by rockrat (104803) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @11:54PM (#25394225)

      No one broke the monkeys' spines. The article [nature.com] states that the spinal neurons innervating the wrist muscles were temporarily blocked using a local anesthetic. What's particularly amazing about this study is that the monkeys were able to quickly learn to control their wrists using the cortical neurons that the computer was monitoring, even if those neurons were not involved in control of the wrist before paralysis.

      I'm a friend of the paper's author and am certain that neither the researchers nor any sane review board would have allowed monkeys to be permanently injured to perform this study; it just wouldn't be necessary.

      • by Ihmhi (1206036) <i_have_mental_health_issues@yahoo.com> on Thursday October 16, 2008 @12:32AM (#25394521)

        Oooh ooh ooh I finally get to say it!

        WHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOSH!

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I used to work in the University of Washington monkey lab.

        The review board actually allowed lots of cruel things happen to monkeys "in the name of science."

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by initdeep (1073290)

          I'd bet that depends on your view of "cruel" now doesn't it.

          PETA would like to thank you for your post.

          so would the CLIT commander.

        • Animal studies tend to involve some cruel but necessary things. For instance, the biologists on my research team are developing a new targeted therapy for a certain type of tumor. But in order to test it out, they needed to order transgenic mice that are genetically engineered to develop this tumor. They treat the mice well, but it doesn't change the fact that the mice are going to go through a lot of suffering and that their sole purpose in life is to become terminally ill.

          I don't like it (and fortunately,

    • Don't worry about it. They probably just mounted a scratch monkey [wikipedia.org].
  • Yes (Score:5, Funny)

    by eclectro (227083) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @09:58PM (#25393503)

    But can you teach them to type??

    • Re:Yes (Score:5, Funny)

      by arrenlex (994824) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @10:00PM (#25393523)

      But can you teach them to type??

      Of course; that's how they expect their thesis to be written.

    • Re:Yes (Score:5, Insightful)

      by owlnation (858981) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @10:07PM (#25393571)

      But can you teach them to type??

      Yes. I offer Wikipedia as proof.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        *Yes. I offer Conservapedia as proof.*

        Fixed that for you.

        • by Somegeek (624100) on Thursday October 16, 2008 @12:48AM (#25394677)

          That site is real, isn't it? For the first few minutes of reading I convinced myself that it was just a funny hoax site, but the deeper I went into it the more scared I became...

          Would it be irony if I prayed to God to free us from religion? I still don't have that whole irony thing down yet.

          • by g-san (93038) on Thursday October 16, 2008 @01:43AM (#25395197)

            This is irony:

            God, please protect me from your followers.

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            God is actually powered by Irony. And heaven is a place only for those who don't believe in it.
            (okay, that genius idea was totally Dresden Codak's, credit where credit is due.)
          • by Fred_A (10934)

            That site is real, isn't it? For the first few minutes of reading I convinced myself that it was just a funny hoax site, but the deeper I went into it the more scared I became...

            Don't underestimate the creativity of our US friends. Some of their hoaxes are so intricate that they sometimes turn into new cults. There was such a backfire in the 19th century that still makes waves in the NW US.

            Regarding the aformentionned site (which I didn't know and caused many a facepalm as I browsed it), I think this bit sums it up best :

            The Bible is a collection of short books recording the history of the world, the Jewish people, the life of Jesus, and the early Christian Church. Creationists ho

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by failedlogic (627314)

      Since I'm going to be working on my Master's thesis soon methinks paying the university for the monkeys might not be a bad idea. But, I want to finish ASAP. I am willing to pay for a Beowulf-cluster of typing monkeys. And I want a guarantee that the monkeys will not screw-up. I do no want my thesis to be cluster-fucked!

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by oliverk (82803)

      I've heard rumor that a million of them can reproduce the works of Shakespeare. Oh, and fling poo. I almost forgot that part.

    • by mweather (1089505)
      Where do you think sitcoms come from?
    • by ohtani (154270)

      A million paralyzed monkeys at a million typewriters!

  • by wealthychef (584778) * on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @10:00PM (#25393521)
    "Monkeys learn to play video games." I actually think that's more amazing.
  • Amazing (Score:5, Funny)

    by Profane MuthaFucka (574406) <busheatskok@gmail.com> on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @10:12PM (#25393619) Homepage Journal

    Amazing! This is truly a wonderful time to be a monkey.

  • they mounted a scratch monkey first.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @10:36PM (#25393765)

    The researchers who published this should have 'Correlation is not causation' written in giant billboards in front of their houses.

    Just 2 monkeys regained movement after the experiment does not mean that rerouting brain signals past blocked nerve pathways using a single neuron controlled by a computer did anything at all. They should have waited until they had ruled out other possibilities, like divine intervention, before publishing results. For shame!

  • by durnurd (967847) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @10:42PM (#25393805) Homepage

    Also, he adds, the system would ideally be fully implantable. Whenever wires protrude through the skin, as they did in the monkey experiments, they introduce risks of infection and disruption. The group plans to tackle this problem with miniaturized components and wireless technology.

    Seems ripe for exploitation...
    "...Quit hitting yourself! Quit hitting yourself..."

    • by TWX (665546)
      I'd be more worried about hostage situations where people with such a system are held hostage by making their own limbs hold the dead-man switch while the perps get away...
    • by Ihmhi (1206036)

      Wireless technology? I hope they have something better than WEP.

      Then again, we could set up some pretty cool programs. How about every time someone types "Frosty Piss" they slap themselves.

  • by CrazyJim1 (809850) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @10:43PM (#25393813) Journal
    Can a human control a monkey arm?
    If so, can we control its entire body?
    If so, can we do it remotely, through a wire to a cell phone.
    If so, how long until someone decides to use monkeys as freedom fighters?
    Yes, science should never go down this path, but hey, it is still possible to look down the paths
    • by FooGoo (98336) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @11:02PM (#25393933)
      I've always wanted to create an army of monkeys bent on global domination and I am sure I am not the only one.
    • If so, how long until someone decides to use monkeys as freedom fighters?

      Lawnmower Man. [youtube.com]

    • People will probably laugh at the idea, but ... once we have bionic enhancements superior to what evolution came up with, it will probably be cheaper to raise monkeys and fit them with the enhancements and dump them loose on the enemy, than to hire human soldiers. Remember, humans will require more and more to put their lives on the line, while monkeys and manufacturing will just get cheaper...

    • by 4D6963 (933028)

      Why bother with a monkey though. The main desirable thing about a monkey is its brain, so if you're only interested in the body.. you might as well use something more powerful, like a tiger, or a shark.. and possibly mount a weapon on them...

      Is it me or do I smell a meme somewhere nearby?

      • Why bother with a monkey though. The main desirable thing about a monkey is its brain, so if you're only interested in the body.. you might as well use something more powerful, like a tiger, or a shark.. and possibly mount a weapon on them...

        Monkeys can be dangerous. The famous fighting monkey Jacco Macacco [wikipedia.org], for instance, was notorious for killing dogs by jumping onto their necks and biting out their throats.

    • Your premise would explain why a monkey got to be president. Perhaps Karl Rove is still running things after all!

  • by afxgrin (208686) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @10:49PM (#25393843)

    Whoever tagged this article "shockthemonkey" is awesome.

  • George Bush? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Own3d-You (1082423)
    This article explains everything.
  • where's the video (Score:3, Interesting)

    by heroine (1220) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @11:25PM (#25394055) Homepage

    Where's the video of the mokeys playing video games with the bionic nerves?

  • WoW (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    That explains those WoW players flinging poop at me.

  • sweet!! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by X0563511 (793323) on Thursday October 16, 2008 @12:09AM (#25394315) Homepage Journal

    Am I the only one who's more interested in the medical significance of this, instead of the silly aspect of monkey-gaming? Holy crap guys, use your brains.

    This means that we have the potential to repair neural damage, potentially severe damage as well!

    I see particular use with pacemakers. Rather than just pulse the heart at a given frequency, read what the brain wants the heart to do, and do that! You could do the same thing for the lungs as well, although I'm not sure how often someone who damages that nerve makes it to the hospital in time.

    Other use could be with amputation victims. Helping restore function to reattached appendages/digits, or controlling prosthesis...

    I wonder if, further down the line, it would be possible to do this to sensory nerves as well, not just motor control/response...

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jmorris42 (1458) *

      > This means that we have the potential to repair neural damage, potentially severe damage as well!

      And paraplegics will get to walk again.... no stem cells required. Ok, that is an offtopic troll, but it just needed sayin.

      If this story turns out to be the real deal it is going to be major world changing stuff. Imagine the possibilities! Implant a few sensors or better yet refine our ability to pick up on these signals without poking wires into brains and remotely control all sorts of things.

    • by Bazouel (105242)

      If I am not mistaken, I remember reading that certain muscles, cardiovascular in particular, do not need to be controlled directly by the brain or even the spine. They contract at a regular interval on their own.

    • by jamesh (87723)

      Holy crap guys, use your brains.

      I don't need to. I can wire in a monkey brain and use it instead. People who know me might suggest that this has already happened.

      medical significance of this, silly aspect of monkey-gaming

      The medical uses will be great, but the technology will be funded and advanced by MMORG companies who, finally realizing that their AI sucks, will move on to using monkey brains in jars.

    • Yes, yes, save the world and help the poor blah blah - that's old news, we hear that all day long. But this is news! We're talking PRO GAMER MONKEYS here!!!

    • by Ihlosi (895663)
      I see particular use with pacemakers. Rather than just pulse the heart at a given frequency, read what the brain wants the heart to do, and do that!

      Err ... that's not how the heart works. The heart contains its own pacemaker, which can be influenced by to autonomous nervous system and hormones, but even in the absence of such will make the heart beat.

      Also, modern pacemakers can actually sense the activity level and regulate their frequency accordingly.

      You could do the same thing for the lungs as well

      • by X0563511 (793323)

        Thanks for correcting my understanding of the heart's pacemaker.

        Hopefully the diaphragm is able to be connected like this, I believe it would as it behaves as a skeletal muscle? (and what is that darn nerve called?)

        As far as sensory information goes, I could see this being used for that, if not perfect it would be better than no sensations. The fun part about those is that, while binary signals may work for them, I would really prefer no sensation to the choice of "OK" and "OMG MY HAND IS ON FIRE" with no g

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Ihlosi (895663)

          Hopefully the diaphragm is able to be connected like this, I believe it would as it behaves as a skeletal muscle?

          Yes, it does. However, the question is whether you can get the respiratory center of the brain to recognize the "bypass" - else you could breathe voluntarily, but would stop as soon as you stop thinking about it (or fall asleep, for example).

          The fun part about those is that, while binary signals may work for them, I would really prefer no sensation to the choice of "OK" and "OMG MY HAND IS ON F

  • I just got my ass handed to me by "1337_bananaz" in Counter-Strike. Looks like we have our culprit right here.
  • They were made paralyzed by "scientists" aka torturers/mutilators. That's an important distinction.

    It really amazes me that we still allow this kind of "research" on sentient beings, who are well aware of themselves and their surroundings.

    • by Knara (9377)

      See here [slashdot.org]. Monkeys will only get cheaper :D

      Besides, trolly-troll, they were only temporarily paralyzed ( for example as mentioned here [slashdot.org]. )

      Now, back to your hole.

    • by scrod98 (609124)
      Animal welfare is controlled by federal law in the U.S. as well as institutional review boards. Pain controls (including Analgesics) are regularly used during procedures. A stressed-out monkey is a poor subject. I think you would be surprised how much most people in the research field care for animals. But lots of advances would never be made without the use of animal models.
  • Somehow I have a hard time believing that a monkey who's trying to figure out why he's half-paralyzed would be even remotely interested in "playing video games."

    This seems to me to be an experiment that's pushing the bounds of ethics.

    A friend of mine happened to work in the Primate dept. at Santa Cruz in the 1960s when they inherited the Harry Harlow rhesus monkeys used in the famous 1950s isolation experiments. They were totally psychologically screwed up for as long as they lived. While I'm not an a

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