Electronic Brain Link Lets Rats Send Each Other Thoughts

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Electronic Brain Link Lets Rats Send Each Other Thoughts

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Scientists have allowed rats to turn their thoughts into direct messages.

For every ounce of wonder and knowledge the field of neuroscience gives us humans, it could be reasonably argued that it gives the rodent world twice the amount in nightmares. In a fresh twist on this theme, a team from Duke University Medical Center in North Carolina has done something wonderful, albeit confusing, for our small and furry friends: They have managed to allow two rats to communicate directly over thousands of miles using cables implanted into their brains.

Detailed in the journal Scientific Reports, the brain-link works by patching into the sensory- and motor-sensitive parts of the rats' brains and then linking them up, allowing the two creatures to share information from those signals with one another. The patching-in is done with an array of microelectrodes, each measuring roughly one hundredth of the diameter of a human hair, implanted directly into the brain.

The scientists behind it demonstrated the effectiveness of the system using a fairly simple-sounding experiment. Two rats were stationed in boxes that contained two switches, two lights, and a water bottle. The switches were located beneath the lights. Rat A, the encoder (sender of information), was trained to know that pressing one of the two switches when the light above it was illuminated would earn it a sip of water from the bottle. Rat B, the decoder (receiver of information), was not given this information; additionally, its box didn't have the handy-hint lights fitted to the box of Rat A. For added assistance, a feedback system that denied Rat A its water if Rat B chose the wrong switch was also put in place. Simple, right?

Here's the cool bit: When the two rats were hooked up with a brain-link, the scientists found that Rat B was able to learn the behavior needed to get sips from the water bottle using only information passed on from the brain of Rat A. With no assistance from its minders and no hints from the lights above the switches, Rat B was able to hit the right switch at the right time and earn itself a drink around 70% of the time.

To further prove their point, the team then repeated the experiment using one rat housed in North Carolina and a partner rat housed at the University of Natal in Brazil. As before, the decoder rat was able to pick the right water-switch thanks to its handy brain-link with the trained encoder rat.

"[It] takes about 45 days of training an hour a day [to get the experiment to work]," said Professor Miguel Nicolelis, who led the team behind the brain-cable. "There is a moment in time when... it clicks. Suddenly the [decoder] animal realizes: 'Oops! The solution is in my head. It's coming to me' and he gets it right."

Depending on how you feel about biotechnology and the future of human communication, it might be that you're thinking this could be a useful thing for human beings to become involved with. If so, and provided non-invasive techniques for getting deeply involved with human brains are possible, Nicolelis has good news on for you: "We will have a way to exchange information across millions of people without using keyboards or voice recognition devices or the type of interfaces that we normally use today," he said.

"I truly believe that in a few decades... we will know what it is to communicate in that way," concluded Nicolelis.

Can you imagine that? The mind (privately, for the moment) boggles. It's tempting to wonder how the rats are taking this; can they sense the other rat, or do they just feel their limbs moving towards the right switch? Either way, your sacrifice in the name of the human networks of the future will not be forgotten, cable-brain-rats. Enjoy the water while it lasts.

Source: BBC

Image: Duke University Medical Center

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i wonder if the rats are thinking...

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I swaer I've seen a webcomic predictings this a while ago where in the end the rats were engineered so well they experimented on humans and made the same mistake humans did by trying to give humans telepathy....

Can't for the life of me find the damn thing.

Adapting this to humans would be suuuch a grea idea, rolls eyes. All you need is one hacker to fuck people up...

I like my keyboard and monitor to look up info thanks, stuff letting others into my mind.

I'm just going to take a wild guess here:
One is a genius; the other's insane.

I've been waiting for something like this.

Ldude893:
I'm just going to take a wild guess here:
One is a genius; the other's insane.

Well duh, he keeps hearing voices in his head :P

Disregarding all the possible negatives of having data sent to your brain if this goes public, like cerebral advertisements and "brain hacking". I wonder how effective this technology could be as a teaching tool. You're sending data straight to the brain, if you could bypass short term memory and store the data straight into long term. I would think you could speed up the teaching process immensely.

bladester1:
Adapting this to humans would be suuuch a grea idea, rolls eyes. All you need is one hacker to fuck people up...

All it takes is one rouge mind and...
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People can turn you quite literally into a human proxy... If it goes to humans I am NEVER getting this augmentation without assurances that it cannot act as an implanted hack-wire

Here's what I am thinking the rats were saying:

Rat A: "You Dumb F***! Your suppose to hit the switch the same time I do!"

Rat B: "I'm sorry! It's hard! I have no idea what I am doing!"

Rat A: "I'm not gonna drown because your too stupid to live! Here, let me tell you what to do... Hit the switch... when I do..."

Rat B: "Alright, great... Now what am I doing?"

Rat A: "I hate my job."

In all seriousness, all we need now is for a human to volunteer to link it's brain with an animal, and we'll finally be able to tell what they're thinking! It's full proof!

Mr.Mattress:
Here's what I am thinking the rats were saying:

Rat A: "You Dumb F***! Your suppose to hit the switch the same time I do!"

Rat B: "I'm sorry! It's hard! I have no idea what I am doing!"

Rat A: "I'm not gonna drown because your too stupid to live! Here, let me tell you what to do... Hit the switch... when I do..."

Rat B: "Alright, great... Now what am I doing?"

Rat A: "I hate my job."

In all seriousness, all we need now is for a human to volunteer to link it's brain with an animal, and we'll finally be able to tell what they're thinking! It's full proof!

Human "Awesome I can finally see what this dog thinks!"

Dog "Biscuit?"

Human "I'm Steve. I am your owner, do you recognize me?"

Dog "Owner have biscuit?"

Human "Doesn't it interest you at all that we can now communicate we can talk to each other and understand each other!"

Dog "How you still not understand Biscuit?"

The potential cat lady uses for this technology! Though seriously enough with the fucking Deus Ex HR jokes. It's a corny line we get it.

Though this I think really is the first step in basically limitless knowledge. Remember that machine that could beam knowledge directly into your head in basically any sci-fi movie? We might be able to do that in the near future where we essentially download entire instruction manuals to the brain.

Basically it's Google but inside your head!

bladester1:
Adapting this to humans would be suuuch a grea idea, rolls eyes. All you need is one hacker to fuck people up...

I agree completely. We should also never ever use scissors, because all it takes is one person to stab someone with them. *rolls eyes harder*

devilmore:
I swaer I've seen a webcomic predictings this a while ago where in the end the rats were engineered so well they experimented on humans and made the same mistake humans did by trying to give humans telepathy....

Can't for the life of me find the damn thing.

http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=2881

1337mokro:

Basically it's Google but inside your head!

And that is a scary thought indeed. Google Glass is bad enough!

Ooooh Telekinetic rats....No thanks.

Sometimes science goes too far.

I for one welcome our new rat overlords!
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Mike the Bard:
Disregarding all the possible negatives of having data sent to your brain if this goes public, like cerebral advertisements and "brain hacking". I wonder how effective this technology could be as a teaching tool. You're sending data straight to the brain, if you could bypass short term memory and store the data straight into long term. I would think you could speed up the teaching process immensely.

Indeed. The implications are fascinating. What usually to take years to learn could possibly take only hours or days. It would literally be like the Matrix or even Dollhouse.

devilmore:
I swaer I've seen a webcomic predictings this a while ago where in the end the rats were engineered so well they experimented on humans and made the same mistake humans did by trying to give humans telepathy....

Can't for the life of me find the damn thing.

I believe that's an old, and oft-repeted gag from Douglas Adams' "Hitchikers Guide To The Galaxy" series, it's revealed that white mice are actually super intelligent aliens experimenting on humans by convincing us we're experimenting on them. Like a lot of his humor it's going through a lot of mutations throughout nerd-dom with the same basic punchline.

So this is how the Cranium rats got their start... it's only a matter of time before they find a gateway to Sigil and then... the multiverse.

Maybe some will stay, after all Many-As-One demonstrated some abillity to help with amnesia if The Nameless One made certain choices in the video game....

This is awesome, I'd love to be hooked up like this ^^
I could just think, "What is information about this thing?" and Google will tell me in my head :D

I'll be honest. I really don't want other people to see what goes on inside my mind. I'm confident that I would cause some serious trauma to anybody even relatively sensitive. And wait, isn't this kinda how headcrabs work?

knight steel:

We must keep these experiments from being relocated to the National Institute of Mental Health at ALL COSTS!

DVS BSTrD:

knight steel:

We must keep these experiments from being relocated to the National Institute of Mental Health at ALL COSTS!

YES-YEEEEES-YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEES!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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captcha:come on down
No captcha that's exactly what we are trying to stop >_<

Enter brain implants, mind washing, borg and virtual reality.
or, maybe, we will be able to have a computer inside a brain. that 1% chance of success is enough to try.

Soon these hyper intelligent rats will build a society in a large rose bush where they discover electricity and magic only to be disturbed by a loving mother mouse looking for medicine.

great.

guy 1: oh no. not this dumb asshole again. keep calm and be nice, he doesnt have to know no one likes him "hey how are you doing?"
guy 2:image

i am pretty sure we will have some rather interesting times when trying to learn how to properly use these devices...

On one hand this will lead us to technology that significantly speeds up the process of learning, which is likely something that'll be quite useful and necessary as we advance technologically, but the question is how much will this be abused and for how long 'til a war(be it civil wars or wars between countries) starts over it? Plus all the other negatives. Should be interesting to see. Hopefully we can avoid at least most of the pitfalls.

Well if anyone wants to share thoughts with me then they made find themselves both disturbed and broken...

devilmore:
I swear I've seen a web-comic predicting this a while ago where in the end the rats were engineered so well they experimented on humans and made the same mistake humans did by trying to give humans telepathy....

Can't for the life of me find the damn thing.

I believe this is what you're looking for.

6th And Silver:

bladester1:
Adapting this to humans would be suuuch a grea idea, rolls eyes. All you need is one hacker to fuck people up...

I agree completely. We should also never ever use scissors, because all it takes is one person to stab someone with them. *rolls eyes harder*

Actually that is a valid concern if this tech advances along the lines of cerebral implants or prolonged interaction sessions with devices akin VR or what ever you may have at that point. If someone figures out how to use the system to manipulate the minds of the people connected to it, then the consequences can be disastrous. This has potential to be more akin to wmd's than a single lunatic running around with a knife or a rifle for that matter.

NO, I will never allow someone into my brain. My mind is a Sacred space that is reserved for the voice of God and His Angelic choir.

How do I know that this tech wont be used to create the Borg? Force people to think and do things, against their will, all for the betterment of the collective.

PS: Yes, I am serious on both of these counts. I think worst-case and prepare to survive it. Hooking up peoples minds is a B. A. D. - BAD idea.

Halyah:
On one hand this will lead us to technology that significantly speeds up the process of learning, which is likely something that'll be quite useful and necessary as we advance technologically, but the question is how much will this be abused and for how long 'til a war(be it civil wars or wars between countries) starts over it? Plus all the other negatives. Should be interesting to see. Hopefully we can avoid at least most of the pitfalls.

Theoretical physicist Michio Kaku put it really well (I'm gonna paraphrase): We're starting to develop technology that'd qualify as "futuristic" (Long story how they judge this, but a fascinating concept). The question is, do we use this technology to make everyone's life better, or do like we've done throughout history & kill each other with it?

I'm hoping for the former

So basically you're saying we're one step closer to creating real life skritt.

Now we just need to give them an adorable attraction to shinies and make them reach to about waist height.

Zombie_Moogle:

Halyah:
On one hand this will lead us to technology that significantly speeds up the process of learning, which is likely something that'll be quite useful and necessary as we advance technologically, but the question is how much will this be abused and for how long 'til a war(be it civil wars or wars between countries) starts over it? Plus all the other negatives. Should be interesting to see. Hopefully we can avoid at least most of the pitfalls.

Theoretical physicist Michio Kaku put it really well (I'm gonna paraphrase): We're starting to develop technology that'd qualify as "futuristic" (Long story how they judge this, but a fascinating concept). The question is, do we use this technology to make everyone's life better, or do like we've done throughout history & kill each other with it?

I'm hoping for the former

It will be both. Much like rocketry gave us access to space at last, it is also a tool that has been used to kill who knows how many people by now. The question is if someone steps in to put in restrictions and laws that prevents someone from abusing this on too big a scale as a complete prevention is ultimately impossible. As they say... it'll get worse before it gets better.

Halyah:

Zombie_Moogle:

Halyah:
On one hand this will lead us to technology that significantly speeds up the process of learning, which is likely something that'll be quite useful and necessary as we advance technologically, but the question is how much will this be abused and for how long 'til a war(be it civil wars or wars between countries) starts over it? Plus all the other negatives. Should be interesting to see. Hopefully we can avoid at least most of the pitfalls.

Theoretical physicist Michio Kaku put it really well (I'm gonna paraphrase): We're starting to develop technology that'd qualify as "futuristic" (Long story how they judge this, but a fascinating concept). The question is, do we use this technology to make everyone's life better, or do like we've done throughout history & kill each other with it?

I'm hoping for the former

It will be both. Much like rocketry gave us access to space at last, it is also a tool that has been used to kill who knows how many people by now. The question is if someone steps in to put in restrictions and laws that prevents someone from abusing this on too big a scale as a complete prevention is ultimately impossible. As they say... it'll get worse before it gets better.

Very true, there will be those that abuse the technology. I don't think laws will be what prevents a catastrophic event as a result of these advancements though. Example: people pirate software & hack computers, so governments respond with bills like SOPA, which contains restrictions that could theoretically break the entire internet. More likely, the exponential increase in availability of information will allow people to better protect themselves against such threats. Maybe that's simplistic, but as a fan of open source software, I can say it's worked out pretty well so far.
I genuinely cannot wait to see how data encryption would work. Would we even need to? Can the data within an organic storage medium (brain) be directly translated to/from digital technology? Every brain works slightly different, so would our best line of defense be our own mental instability? All exciting questions I would love to see answered, for better or worse

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