Friday, March 1, 2013

Direct Brain-to-Brain Communication in Rats?

In an experiment that sounds straight out of a science fiction movie, a Duke neuroscientist has connected the brains of two rats in such a way that when one moves to press a lever, the other one does, too — most of the time.

The neuroscientist, Miguel Nicolelis, known for successfully demonstrating brain-machine connections, like the one in which a monkey controlled a robotic arm with its thoughts, said this was the first time one animal’s brain had been linked to another.

The question, he said, was: “Could we fool the brain? Could we make the brain process signals from another body?” The answer, he said, was yes.

He and other scientists at Duke, and in Brazil, published the results of the experiment in the journal Scientific Reports. The work received mixed reviews from other scientists, ranging from “amazing” to “very simplistic.”
I note that it wasn't simply a matter of sending signals from one brain to the other. Some learning was involved. You can find the original research HERE.

1 comment:

  1. Here's a little critique:

    But the real issue with the results is that the results weren’t particularly robust, and it’s a task that is very, very simple. And this is only a task with TWO choices. Left or right. Right or wrong. In something more complex? The whole thing would probably descend into noise. Especially considering…there were only 2-5 rats per group in every single experiment. In the second experiment, there were only two encoder rats, in the first there were only three. Yes, they got significant results, but I wonder if it would hold up if you had more rats with a wider range of behaviors. A single rat tends to have a very consistent level of behavior in these kinds of tasks, but it can vary pretty drastically from rat to rat. It’s possible they had 2-3 really good performers, and adding animals would take significance away from the results.