Tags: mind | meld | rats | brain signals

Mind Meld Rats: Rodents Miles Apart Use Brain Signals to 'Talk'

Friday, 01 Mar 2013 01:00 PM

By Michael Mullins

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A Duke University neuroscientist has successfully wired the brains of two rats in labs thousands of miles away from each other, allowing them to use brain signals to "talk" to one another.

The feat was accomplished through implanting electrodes in the rodents' brains.

In one experiment, the rats were trained to hit a certain lever when exposed to a red light, for which they received a sip of water as a reward if they chose the correct lever.

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One of the rats was repeatedly shown a red light and hit the correct lever as it was trained. The other rat, which did not receive any stimuli, pressed the same lever as its counterpart seven out of 10 times, the New York Times reported.

Miguel Nicolelis, the Duke neuroscientist behind the experiment, is known in the field for demonstrating brain-machine connections.

"We basically created a computational unit out of two brains," Nicolelis said.

The neuroscientist added that he hopes the experiment will eventually lead to the development of an exoskeleton that a paralyzed person's brain signals could operate.

Nicolelis said that although the experiment and his project might not appear directly related, the study's conclusions will assist him in refining his findings on the brain's ability to translate signals, which is an important part of connecting prosthetic devices to the human brain.

The electrodes were implanted into the rodent's primary motor cortex area of the brain, which is located in the frontal lobe.

Reactions to the experiment from other scientists were mixed.

Some thought the findings were strong.

"I think it’s an amazing paper," said Ron D. Frostig, a neuroscientist at the University of California, Irvine.

Frostig further described Nicolelis' work as a "beautiful proof of principle" demonstrating that information could be transferred in real time from one brain to another, The Times reports.

University of Pittsburgh neuroscientist Andrew B. Schwartz did not agree, describing Nicolelis' experiment as "very simplistic."

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In his criticism, Schwartz noted that the rat receiving the signal pushed the correct lever only 70 percent of the time, having a 50y percent chance automatically of pushing the correct lever without the implanted electrodes.

Related stories:

'Brain Pacemakers' Offer Hope to Alzheimer's Patients

M&M Study: Brain Can't Resist Sweets

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