This is totally the kind of mind-blowing advances we expected we'd find in 2013, growing up way back in the 20th century: a Duke neuroscientist was actually able to link two rats' brains—using electrode implants—so that they could communicate through their minds.
For his experiment, the findings of which were published in the journal Scientific Reports, Dr. Miguel Nicolelis implanted recording electrodes in the primary motor cortex of one rat (the "encoder") and stimulating electrodes in the same area of another rat (the "decoder"). The encoder rat was trained to press one of two levers in response to a light signal over the correct lever, with the reward being water. Its pattern of brain activity was sent to a computer, which then transmitted it to the decoder rat, who then knew which lever to press without seeing the light signal. One rat was located at Duke in North Carolina, while the other was in Natal, Brazil.
The purpose of this experiment was to ask, "Could we fool the brain? Could we make the brain process signals from another body?" The answers, apparently, are yes and yes.
So much of his Dr. Nicolelis' work sounds super cool because it seems like something you'd find in science fiction. One time he was able to have a monkey control a robotic arm with its thoughts. And he's also speculated about creating a "biological computer" that would connect "numerous brains." So what would be the point of such a thing, other than being able to talk shit about others while they are in the same room, without them being the wiser? (Which would be amazing.) Well, Dr. Nicolelis' goals aren't as stupid and mean as we are. His efforts are mostly focused on "creating a full exoskeleton that a paralyzed person could operate with brain signals."
Image via nanka/Shutterstock
One Rat Thinks, and Another Reacts [NY Times]