You've dosed your monkey, haven't you?

Brain Implant Improves Thinking in Monkeys, First Such Demonstration in Primates

After two years of practice, the animals developed some mastery, getting about 75 percent of the easier matches correct and 40 percent of the harder ones, markedly better than chance guessing.

The monkeys were implanted with a tiny probe with two sensors; it was threaded through the forehead and into two neighboring layers of the cerebral cortex, the thin outer covering of the brain.

The two layers, called L-2/3 and L-5, are known to communicate with each other during decision making of the sort that the monkeys were doing when playing the matching game.

The device recorded the crackle of firing neurons during the animals' choices and transmitted it to a computer. Researchers at U.S.C., led by Theodore Berger, analyzed this neural signal, and determined its pattern when the monkeys made correct choices.

To test the device, the team relayed this "correct" signal into the monkeys' brains when they were in the middle of choosing a possible picture match, and it improved their performance by about 10 percent.

The researchers then impaired the monkeys' performance deliberately, by dosing them with cocaine. Their scores promptly fell by 20 percent.

"But when you turn on the stimulator, they don't make those errors; in fact, they do a little better than normal," said Robert E. Hampson of Wake Forest, a study author.

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14 Responses:

  1. pavel_lishin says:

    Something something scratch monkey reference.

  2. NelC says:

    Hmm, I think the conclusion is a bit broad. The prosthesis improves performance on a particular kind of test, is about as far as I'd go. What I'd like to see is for the researchers to try it on themselves, and report on their experience.

    Where's the picture from, BTW?

  3. Edouard says:

    What I want to know is where do these mad scientists go to get their monkey cocaine. Seriously, what's next, checking out how the brain controlled monkeys perform while drinking tequila at the nudie bar? You know, for science?

    • Tom Lord says:

      Presumably the data from the "when we gave the cocaine to the monkeys" section is falsified, other than for very broad definitions of "the monkeys" and "data".

      • Edouard says:

        Ahh, they may be taking a strict cladistic definition of monkey? That certainly makes more sense...

    • NelC says:

      Is there a medical name for cocaine, like heroin at a hospital is diamorphine?

  4. Chris Davies says:

    I'm afraid that the implant that will enable you to drive safely while coked up to the eyeballs will come about 50 years too late for all those 80s guys who wrapped their beamers round various inner city lamp posts.

    Oh, technology, where are you when we need you?

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