How One Monkey’s Brain Controls Another Monkey’s Body Via Computer Chip

A team of researchers led by Harvard neurosurgeon Dr. Ziv Williams have brought the movie Avatar to real life. The team was able to connect two monkeys via computer chip: the thoughts of one monkey controlled the movements of the other.

Here’s how they did it. The frontal cortex of the brain is arguably is most important structure, controlling sensory and motor functions as well as playing a major role in consciousness.

The cerebral cortex sends neural signals through the spinal chord to direct body movements. The team was able to create a computer bypass, connecting a computer chip implanted in the cortex of one monkey to the spinal chord of the other.

Cerebral Cortex
Cerebral Cortex

The bypass would extract information about how the first monkey was planning to move and then send the corresponding signals to the spinal chord of the other.

“For example, if the monkey is intending on moving upwards, we would select specific electrode contacts in the spinal cord to stimulate a movement that reaches that exact same target location. In some cases actually the first monkey just needed to think about what they wanted to do and then the other monkey would make the movement,”

said Dr. Williams.

Williams and his team hopes that their research will lead to breakthroughs in treatment for people suffering from nerve and spinal chord paralysis. The full study is published in the journal Nature Communications.

Read the full story from ABC News Australia here.

Feature image courtesy of 


3 thoughts on “How One Monkey’s Brain Controls Another Monkey’s Body Via Computer Chip”

    1. Yes, totally creepy! I’m thinking about writing an opinion piece examining some of the ethical and existential questions that underly this type of research. Glad you enjoyed!

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