Smartplanet.com recently made an interview with Nicho Hatsopoulos, associate professor and chair of computational neuroscience at the University of Chicago, about this latest innovation in brain-machine technology.
A number of groups have been thinking about the question of adding other sorts of sensory feedback. Hatsopoulos and his team tried one approach to solving the problem which is using a wearable, or exoskeletal, robot.
They developed a brain-machine interface where they recorded signals from the motor cortex of a monkey and they were controlling the cursor on a screen. At the same time, they sent that control signal from the brain to this wearable robot on which the monkey’s arm was resting. It was moving the monkey’s arm to follow the cursor. Because the monkey was completely normal, the monkey had a complete sense of kinesthesia. He got a sense of feeling of the motion of the cursor from his arm. That helped him guide the movement of the cursor more effectively.
The most important measures were the time it took him to hit a target. The time it took him was about 40 percent less when we added this feedback. As Hatsopoulos tells in the interview, they also looked at how straight the paths of the cursor were from the initial position to the target and they were 40 percent straighter when his arm was being moved around as well. The cursor was positioned where the hand was.