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Surprising Science

Primates’ Thinking Power Augmented by Brain Implant

For the first time ever, researchers have enhanced the mental capacity of primates by implanting an electronic device in their brain which stimulates damaged neural pathways. 

What’s the Latest Development?

For the first time ever, scientists have improved primates’ capacity for thought using an electronic brain implant, raising questions about how the human mind might be augmented in the future. After training monkeys to do perform reasonably well on a matching game, which required them to select one of seven images that corresponded to a separate image shown on a screen, researchers gave the monkeys cocaine in order to impair the neural pathways essential to the task. The monkey’s performance on the game fell immediately by a factor of 20 percent.

What’s the Big Idea?

Prior to the experiment, researchers had implanted a neural device in the monkeys’ brains which measured blood flow, temperature, and the electrical activity of neurons. By sensing when these metrics had become impaired by the cocaine, the device was able to deliver electric current to stimulate the affected areas. The device was able to improve the monkeys’ performance to levels higher than the pre-cocaine state, suggesting cognitive enhancement had occurred. Researchers eventually hope to create an implantable chip to help human patients, such as victims of dementia or stroke, to return to their original selves. 

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