Two rats were wired up together (here in an artist’s impression) so that one would make decisions using sensory cues from the other. KATIE ZHUANG, LABORATORY OF DR. MIGUEL NICOLELIS/DUKE UNIVERSITY

 
NATURE | NEWS

Intercontinental mind-meld unites two rats

But critics are sceptical about predicted organic computer.

Ed Yong
28 February 2013

The brains of two rats on different continents have been made to act in tandem. When the first, in Brazil, uses its whiskers to choose between two stimuli, an implant records its brain activity and signals to a similar device in the brain of a rat in the United States. The US rat then usually makes the same choice on the same task.

Miguel Nicolelis, a neuroscientist at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, says that this system allows one rat to use the senses of another, incorporating information from its far-away partner into its own representation of the world. “It’s not telepathy. It’s not the Borg,” he says. “But we created a new central nervous system made of two brains.”

Nicolelis says that the work, published today in Scientific Reports, is the first step towards constructing an organic computer that uses networks of linked animal brains to solve tasks. But other scientists who work on neural implants are sceptical. Lee Miller, a physiologist at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, says that Nicolelis’s team has made many important contributions to neural interfaces, but the current paper could be mistaken for a “poor Hollywood science-fiction script”. He adds, “It is not clear to what end the effort is really being made.”

Read more: Intercontinental mind-meld unites two rats : Nature News & Comment.

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