China develops brain chip that lets monkeys control robotic arm with their MINDS 

Chinese scientists claim to have designed a brain implant that allows a monkey to control a robotic arm using just its mind.

Researchers at Nankai University shared the announcement on May 5, praising it as a breakthrough that will improve the lives of people with disabilities.

The brain-computer transforms electroencephalogram (EEG) signals into the animal’s control instructions to navigate the machine with food attached.

The research has not been peer-reviewed, and the claims – which cannot be verified independently – are only available in a statement on the university’s website. 

‘The trial was led by the team of Professor Duan Feng of Nankai University and jointly completed with the General Hospital of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (301 Hospital) and Shanghai Xinwei Medical Technology Co., Ltd,’ the announcement reads.

‘This experiment is a further result obtained on the basis of the previous interventional brain-computer interface animal (sheep) experiment. EEG signal recognition and other core technologies.’

The university shared an image of the team performing surgery on the monkey as it received the brain implant.

The sedated monkey is lying on a table where doctors see a screen showing the procedure.

‘The interventional brain-computer interface developed by Professor Duan Feng’s team, through interventional surgery, attaches the interventional EEG sensor to the wall of monkey brain vessels and can collect intracranial EEG signals without craniotomy,’ researchers shared in the announcement.

‘Type and non-invasive brain-computer interface, considering security and recognition stability.’

The interventional EEG sensor passes through the jugular vein, enters the sagittal sinus, and reaches the motor cortex brain area. 

After the operation, the EEG signals were successfully collected and recognized, realizing the animals’ active control of the robotic arm.

‘The results of the interventional brain-computer interface experiment carried out in the brains of non-human primates have promoted the advancement of interventional brain-computer interface from laboratory prospective research to clinical application, and will help promote,’ according to Professor Duan Feng. 

‘The industrial upgrading of medical enterprises, through the combination of medicine and industry to create a national brand of high-end medical equipment, will have broad market prospects in the field of brain disease medical rehabilitation in the future.’

While researchers have yet to release a complete study, other companies have already tested their implants in humans – and provided evidence that they work. 

Inner Cosmos announced its ‘digital pill’ in January that aims to cure depression and is now in the skull of the first human patient. 

The device includes an electrode that sits under the skin of the scalp and the ‘prescription pod’ that snaps onto the user’s hair to power the device.

The implant sends tiny electrical pulses to the brain region affected by depression – the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex – once daily for 15 minutes.

Synchron began human trials of its brain implant in July, which lets the wearer control a computer using thought alone.

The firm’s Stentrode brain implant, about the size of a paperclip, will be implanted in six New York and Pittsburgh patients with severe paralysis.

Stentrode will let patients control digital devices by thinking and allow them to perform daily tasks, including texting, emailing and online shopping.

Then there is Elon Musk’s Neuralink, surrounded by controversy due to activists claiming the company has violated animal rights.

In March, Neuralink’s request to test its chip on humans was rejected by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The agency outlined dozens of issues the company must address before human testing, a critical milestone for final product approval, Neuralink staffers told Reuters.

The concerns include the device’s lithium battery; the potential for the implant´s tiny wires to migrate to other areas of the brain; and questions over whether and how the device can be removed without damaging brain tissue, the employees said.

Musk applied in early 2022, but staffers said the company co-founder has yet to solve all the problems – even though the billionaire revealed human trials would start six months back in November. 

The company has been under scrutiny for the past few months as animal advocacy groups and former employees are sounding the alarm over animal welfare violations.

Lab notes by staffers who conducted experiments at the University of California Davis (UC Davis) show animal issues with the implants, echoing the FDA’s concerns.

The FDA’s rejection listed dozens of what the agency calls ‘deficiencies’ that the company must address before human trials, five Neuralink sources said.

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