3rd Mar 2013
Mind-Reading Rodents

Neuroscientist Miguel Nicolelis has taken the first steps towards turning brain-to-brain communication into reality. In his lab at Duke University, he placed two rats in separate cages and trained them to push a lever in order to get a reward of water. There were two choices of levers, left and right, and only rat A was given a cue—a LED light flashed above the correct lever. Rat B, however, had to rely on rat A, because Nicolelis wired their brains together using microelectrode implants a fraction of the size of a human hair. When rat A was given the flashing cue and stepped on the correct lever, the neurons in its motor cortex fired in a specific way. The implants translated this to binary code and sent it through the wire into rat B’s brain, where it was translated back into neural signals, and since the signals were different for the left or right lever, rat B had to interpret rat A’s thoughts in order to get the water—and results show that rat B pressed the correct lever 85% of the time. It’s a bit crude and simple, but as the research becomes more complex, it may open up a vast array of applications. Nicolelis’s next step is to connect multiple rats to the same network and observe how they adapt to the new form of communication. However, critics point out that Nicolelis is so far only connecting up localised parts of the brain. The human brain is hugely parallel and massively interconnected—so in the long run, the real challenge is to connect entire brain, allowing enormous amounts of data to flow between, or abstract thoughts could never be communicated.

(Image Credit: Gizmag)

Mind-Reading Rodents

Neuroscientist Miguel Nicolelis has taken the first steps towards turning brain-to-brain communication into reality. In his lab at Duke University, he placed two rats in separate cages and trained them to push a lever in order to get a reward of water. There were two choices of levers, left and right, and only rat A was given a cue—a LED light flashed above the correct lever. Rat B, however, had to rely on rat A, because Nicolelis wired their brains together using microelectrode implants a fraction of the size of a human hair. When rat A was given the flashing cue and stepped on the correct lever, the neurons in its motor cortex fired in a specific way. The implants translated this to binary code and sent it through the wire into rat B’s brain, where it was translated back into neural signals, and since the signals were different for the left or right lever, rat B had to interpret rat A’s thoughts in order to get the water—and results show that rat B pressed the correct lever 85% of the time. It’s a bit crude and simple, but as the research becomes more complex, it may open up a vast array of applications. Nicolelis’s next step is to connect multiple rats to the same network and observe how they adapt to the new form of communication. However, critics point out that Nicolelis is so far only connecting up localised parts of the brain. The human brain is hugely parallel and massively interconnected—so in the long run, the real challenge is to connect entire brain, allowing enormous amounts of data to flow between, or abstract thoughts could never be communicated.

(Image Credit: Gizmag)

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