Brain-to-Brain Interface Lets Rats Communicate With Their Minds

Scientists at Duke University have developed a way for rats to communicate with one another, using only the electrical transmissions of their brains.

They have created a brain-to-brain interface that would let one rat transmit information to another rat, allowing the rat on the receiving end to perform behavioral tasks without being trained to do them. Scientists first trained a group of rats on complex tasks involving reacting to light and pushing levers, or poking their noses through the correct hole to get water. They then connected a transmitter to the rats' brains, and paired them up with a second group, fitted with receivers, who were familiar with being told instructions based on the frequency of electrical stimulation. The first group were known as the "encoders", the ones whose brains were being recorded. The second group, the "decoders," were the rats who would receive the electrical stimulation and the information from the encoding group.

That's when things get really cool:

The researchers found that the decoder rats could learn to perform the same movements, and successfully complete the task, guided solely by the information they received from the brains of the encoder rats. Likewise, when the implants were embedded into the somatosensory cortex, the decoders could use the sensory information they received to mimic the encoders' actions and poke their nose into the right hole to get a drink. They could also transmit the information over the internet in real time, so that the brain activity of an encoder rat in the lab at North Carolina could guide the behaviour of a decoder animal in Brazil.

Scientists believe this research will help pave the way for advances in treating patients with motor disorders like Parkinson's disease, or people recovering from strokes. Those treatments might just the beginning however, believes Miguel Nicolelis, one of the researchers on the project. "This could lead to organic computers that perform heuristically instead of using algorithms. I have no doubt that human brain nets will be possible in the future, but I certainly won't see this in my lifetime."

Human brain nets? We are now one step closer to our glorious Borg-like future.

[Image via Shutterstock.]