This is your brain on marshmellows

Researchers conducting studies into the motor cortex of your brain have reported that eating too many marshmellows (or bananas?) could end up making you look like this:

Seriously, though, I am fascinated by this article.  First researchers taught monkeys to feed themselves marshmallows using a joystick.  Been awhile since I’ve seen one of those.  Then they put the monkeys in restraints, put a ‘brain wave interface’ into their motor cortexes which allowed the monkeys to manipulate the arm by brain power alone, and eventually tested the monkey’s ability to operate the arm around obstacles.  Different monkeys tested differently, but there was a 78% rate over 13 days of tests with the best monkey.

The whole thing raises possibilities for the future of prosthetics and even automated production lines.  After all, what couldn’t you do if you can hook your brain up to a machine or robot?  Of course, the researchers caution that these ‘brain-machine interfaces’ have only ever been tested in specific virtual reality settings.  I’d like to know where and when myself – the idea of sticking metal things in my head and possibly being mind controlled does not appeal.  But even if I’m excited about the possibilities on the whole, I do have additional questions.  Why marshmallows and not bananas?  Why joystick training initially?  What constitutes success in the experiment?  Is marshmallow in the eye a failure?  What about when the monkey can’t eat another marshmallow without ralphing?  Is that a failure?  How often each day to they run these tests?

I guess for now the world will have to wait for the combination of peanut butter and chocolate.  No wait, we’re post-Reese’s.  For the combination of brain and machine.


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