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US scientists have taught a monkey to operate a robotic arm to feed itself using only the power of its thoughts.

The experiment was revealed Tuesday at a meeting of neuroscientists in San Diego, The Guardian reports, and involves interception of signals from the brain by electrode probes. The signals are interpreted through an algorithm and transmitted to a robotic arm. The robotic arm consists of a mobile shoulder, elbow and gripping device.

The onus was on the monkey to learn exactly how to control the arm to achieve a satisfactory result. The team placed food randomly around the restrained monkey, and it 'thought' the required sequences to get the arm to pick up the food, through trial and error.

Four years ago a team from Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, used electrode brain implants to link a monkey to the internet to allow it to move a lever 600 miles away in Massachusetts. In 1999, two people with advanced motor neurone were able to compose sentences on a computer by thinking about moving their fingers. It is hoped that this technology will one day be available to help people with spinal cord injuries. ®

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