(Photo : Flickr Creative Commons) Duke researchers received a $26 million grant from the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to investigate "brain-machine interfaces.Brains of rats connected allowing them to share information via internetThe Gu
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Mind Meld Rats: Rodents Brains 'Talk' to One Another Across Thousands of Miles
By Cole Hill | First Posted: Feb 28, 2013 09:46 PM EST
(Photo : Flickr Creative Commons) Duke researchers received a $26 million grant from the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to investigate "brain-machine interfaces."A new study was able to successfully "mind meld" the brains of two rats across thousands of miles, sending signals through the rodents' brains that allowed them to communicate and help one another solve problems, according to Nature.com. Somewhere, "Star Trek" fans are saying, "Well, duh."
By inputting two rats' brains with electrode implants about the width of a hair, scientists from Duke University built on existing research to create the first-ever "brain-link." Researchers designated one rat as a "message sender" and another as a "decoder" and then studied if the rat receiving the signal could correctly decipher the information.
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"Until recently we used to record this brain activity and send it to a computer... and the [computer] tells us what the animal is going to do," Prof Nicolelis told the BBC.
"So we reasoned, if we can do that with a computer, could another brain do that?"
To truly test his experiment, Nicolelis wired the brain of a rat in Brazil to a rat at Duke, to see if the rats could successfully communicate motor and sensory cues to one another to solve problems, sending the signals across the Internet. After the rats underwent some rigorous training for a little over a month, the "decoder" rat was able to accurately interpret the "message sender" rat's information, and mimic its behavior to find water and turn on a light that it otherwise would have never known about, according to The Huffington Post.
"[It] takes about 45 days of training an hour a day," explained Prof Nicolelis. "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."
Nicolelis and his team of scientists received a $26 million grant from the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to research "brain-machine interfaces." Other experts in the field have said the scientific ramifications of his experiment are impressive and exciting, to say the least.
"From an engineering perspective, the work is a remarkable demonstration that animals can use brain-to-brain communication to solve a problem, said Mitra Hartmann, a biomedical engineer at Northwestern University.
"From a scientific point of view, the study is noteworthy for the large number of important questions it raises, for example, what allows neurons to be so 'plastic' that the animal can learn to interpret the meaning of a particular stimulation pattern," Hartmann said.
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