While this idea seems more like something you would find in a science fiction movie, the truth is that researchers have made in significant breakthrough in brain networking. And exactly as the name suggests, this method involves the linking together of brains in order to make a collective thought network and this is why rat and monkey brains were linked by scientists.
Miguel A. Nicolelis, director of the Centre for Neuroengineering at the Duke University has spent more than 20 years trying to make this science fiction dream a reality. For 25 years Nicolelis, together with his colleagues, have been attempting to decipher signals recorded by some electrodes inserted in brains with the help of some devices that they designed. And now it seems like this time was a time well spent as they had a breakthrough and they wired the brains of animals in order for them to collaborate on tasks.
Nicolelis said that this discovery is the first display of a shared brain to machine interface, something that has been translated very successfully over the last years from clinical applications to studies in animals as well. He believes that these shared brain-machine interfaces will get the same attention and might soon be put into clinical practice.
Four rats had delivered into their brains the same signal in the study and when a digital monitor revealed that their thoughts were in synch the rats were given some water as reward. After some more tests the scientists discovered that they were able to manipulate the patterns in the brains of the animals so that they had a collective thought 87% of the time.
What is even more impressive than this is that the researchers were capable of successfully manipulating three rats in order for them to act as a chain of information processing. This means that they were able to make the first rat create a specific type of activity in the brain and then pass it on next in the chain and so on. After they were successful in their experiment, the scientists focused on monkeys as well. Two monkeys were shown in the study images of a ball and an arm and by giving them similar brain signals the monkeys were capable of working together in order to move the arm next to the ball.
Karen S. Rommelfanger, director at the Neuroethics Program in the Centre of Ethics at the Emory University said that she was very impressed by the experiment and the discovery but that she was a little worried about how this could create potential legal and privacy issues.
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