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Intercontinental Mind-Meld Unites Two Rats 176

ananyo writes "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 U.S. 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, 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 skeptical."
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Intercontinental Mind-Meld Unites Two Rats

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  • by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportland@[ ]oo.com ['yah' in gap]> on Thursday February 28, 2013 @01:30PM (#43036355) Homepage Journal

    ". But other scientists who work on neural implants are skeptical.""
    as they should be,. It's a big deal, as such it will require good data and be repeatable.

    • by dywolf ( 2673597 )

      there's also the whole of, how did they know where to plant the wires? do they even know if the rats can communicate? how do they know rats even shared information and not just random brain impulses? how do they know they used the shared information?

      • how do they know rats even shared information and not just random brain impulses? how do they know they used the shared information?

        By doing science.

        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 U.S. rat then usually makes the same choice on the same task.

        • by dywolf ( 2673597 )

          smart ass'ed ness aside (ill ignore that for now, thankyou), i get that they did "science".

          but theres no information about study controls to determine how different the us rat is from any other rat faced with the same choice. to prove that the rat made his choice because of the signals from the other rat.

          more importantly, how did the brazil rat know to communicate those signals? or is the us rat able to passively read the brazil rats brain/memories? if so, how?
          cause what that implies is that the rat's brain

          • by Ieshan ( 409693 )

            The Brazil rat didn't "know" to communicate signals. The US rat didn't "read" the mind of the Brazil rat.

            Here's how it works.

            There is a recording electrode in Brazil Rat's head. It passively records the activity from a region of the brain involved in the task. There is a stimulating electrode in US Rat's head. It passively replays the activity that was recorded from Brazil Rat's head.

            The control condition in this case is what happens to the US Rat's choice behavior when they shut off the stimulating electro

    • by jfengel ( 409917 )

      The impression I get from TFA is not that they're skeptical that it can be repeated. Rather, they're skeptical that there is any important advance here. They've been doing implants to send and receive signals for some time. Since only a single bit is being transferred ("Go"), it's a pretty poor sort of "mind meld". It's not really thoughts being transferred at all, just a mental button-push, which they've been able to do for quite some time on both ends. And the Internet connection in between is pure window

    • When rat one moved his left foot, the right brain of rat two was shocked, and ... moved his left foot.

  • by Jeremi ( 14640 ) on Thursday February 28, 2013 @01:31PM (#43036375) Homepage

    Oh c'mon Pinky, you already know, you DMA'd it from me 250nS ago.

  • If the goal is to use this technology to mend broken connections in diseased or damaged brains, wouldn't it make more sense to test a similarly damaged rat brain rather than attempt to repeat the same results with four mice? Note: The question is related to the original article more so than the submission on /.
  • by srobert ( 4099 ) on Thursday February 28, 2013 @01:33PM (#43036427)

    ... refuse to issue the standard obligatory decades old Simpson's joke that typically accompanies a story like this one.

  • Rat Wireheading (Score:4, Insightful)

    by lazarus ( 2879 ) on Thursday February 28, 2013 @01:36PM (#43036457) Homepage Journal

    I notice they do not include a picture of the wireheaded rats (only an artists impression). Probably wise. While I for one believe that the advancement of science to be the greatest height to which a rat could aspire, I have a feeling that others (and possibly the rats) do not feel the same way.

  • Not the Borg? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Roogna ( 9643 ) on Thursday February 28, 2013 @01:39PM (#43036521)

    Actually, sounds almost exactly like what I'd think was the beginnings of the Borg.

    • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) *

      Actually, sounds almost exactly like what I'd think was the beginnings of the Borg.

      No, your grandpa probably is. There are a lot of cyborgs walking around today -- I'm one, thanks to my CrystaLens implant. Those, cochlear implants, pacemakers, artificial joints, etc. Fifty years ago (less, actually) there were no cyborgs. Today, we're common. Tomorrow? Who knows?

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Mmm. No, I think the thing that sets the Borg apart from others is their networked mind.

        Geordi had a VISOR / eye implants and Picard had an artificial heart. No one ever said these were a slippery slope to being Borg.

        But directly connecting your mind to another, to lose your sense of individuality, THAT is the first step to full on Borg time.

    • by jez9999 ( 618189 )

      Yep; in fact, the Borg specifically worked with implants, hence the need to physically assimilate victims.

    • I for one welcome our ninja-trained helicopter-piloting rat underlords.

    • 'It's not telepathy.'

      It is, almost by definition.

      'It's not the Borg,'

      It is, almost exactly by definition.

    • It's OK. We can just set the mouse traps on rotating modulations.
    • by Hentes ( 2461350 )

      No, this is a simple learning process masquerading as "mind-melding". The important part is that both rats were trained: the first one to choose the right lever, and the second one was trained to act based on the electric stimuli of its brain. It's not different from having the first rat turn a lamp on for the second one. In fact, you can leave the first rat completely out of the equation, and the second one would act the same way. The second rat didn't know there was a first one and the first one didn't kn

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Imagine a Wolf cluster of these.

  • Sex (Score:2, Funny)

    by omnichad ( 1198475 )

    This idea has some interesting real-world applications

    1. Sex
    4. Profit

  • Wow. We're making Cranium Rats? Anyone that has played Planescape Torment knows thats a bad idea.
  • by CRCulver ( 715279 ) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Thursday February 28, 2013 @01:52PM (#43036693) Homepage

    One of the most unusual concepts of an alien life form I've seen are the Tines in Vinge's novel A Fire upon the Deep [amazon.com] , dog or giant rat-like animals that are not individually conscious, but when together in packs form a single sentient organism. In the case of Vinge's novel, neural communication between the individual members of the pack was carried out via ultrasound, not electricity like here, but I wouldn't have imagined that scientists would pursue the same idea at some point.

    • If you recall, the Tines (really dogs/wolves - not rats) ended up making wearable radios to extend their intra-pack comms beyond the range of the ultrasound. The packs thus equipped could spread out for miles. JUST LIKE what we just did with the rats.
    • by xevioso ( 598654 )

      This book needs to be made into a movie posthaste.

    • by dywolf ( 2673597 )

      Saturn's Race, by Larry Niven. similar concept, only a scientist melding his own mind with a shark.

    • ...not individually conscious, but when together in packs form a single sentient organism.

      Isn't that (one of) the current theory(s) about colony insects such as ants and bees?

      As I've heard said, if you want the most alien-looking stuff, look no further than right here on Earth.

  • Interesting that the hyperintelligent pan-dimensional beings that we call mice would direct us to use their traditional enemies, rats, as preliminary test subjects for the future wiring of all of humanity into one hyper-super-duper-parallel-mind-games-puper-computer to come up with the question much sooner than we would otherwise.

  • Was the artist's impression completely necessary? What I take from that, the rats engaged in some Hollywood, overly cgi vulcan mind meld all the while inside of Tron.
  • by QilessQi ( 2044624 ) on Thursday February 28, 2013 @02:02PM (#43036821)

    Clearly we need an RFC for the Brain-To-Brain-Interface Protocol.

    Hopefully it'll be built on top of SSL. I don't want someone hacking into my rats.

    • "Always mount a scratch rat [wikipedia.org]!"

    • by radtea ( 464814 )

      Clearly we need an RFC for the Brain-To-Brain-Interface Protocol.

      You've been modded funny but this is actually insightful.

      The fantasy of "brains working together" is based on a transparently stupid idea: that adding more manpower to a late project will not make it later. Communication and thinking are hard, and brains are decidedly non-standard components, with different internal representations of pretty much everything.

      As a friend who works in GIS is fond of saying, "If I take a group of geologists out in the field and have them map an area, at the end of the day I ca

      • Going in the other direction, I'm reminded of the robot armies in Stanislaw Lem's "Cyberiad" that were tricked into linking their minds up, soldier-to-soldier. In the end, the two opposing armies coalesced into two mega-minds whose personalities (which had tendencies to intellectual distraction) were completely incapable of carrying out the original task of fighting.

  • See the science fiction novel, _Lady El_ by Jim Starlin and Dana Graziunas.

  • Maybe NOW we can finally understand what the female brain is Really thinking....
  • Someone let this out a month and a day too early.

  • Next time I'm traversing the Warrens, looking for the Decanter of Endless Water, I'll remember that this is how that bullshit started.
  • Researcher: press that lever, you rat!
    Rat: I realize that command does have its fascination, even under circumstances such as these, but I neither enjoy it nor am I frightened of it. It simply exists, and I will do whatever logically needs to be done.

  • Why you should be skeptical:

    1. Slapping implants that record...something, and then slapping implants that...play back something that stimulate neurons in the exact same way as they were firing when recorded is a hell of an accomplisment.

    This alone is sci-fi level stuff.

    2. It's doubtful such activity, on the level of a neuron applies to a blanket region as if projecting on a screen. You wouldn't be "projecting" the correct micro-piece on the correct destination neuron.

    3. Even with sufficiently fine neuronal

  • by MyLongNickName ( 822545 ) on Thursday February 28, 2013 @02:16PM (#43037023) Journal

    I hate to break it to the researchers, but getting a pack of rats to operate under the same collective consciousness has been done before [americanbar.org]

  • ...since cats do, in fact, have pointy ears. I would have thought that that would be a major help here.

    Also, as a cat lover, I vehemently object to giving mice any special training or equipment that might topple the fragile balance of power between mice and cats. I'm going to file a protest to the United Species Security Council!

  • Oh great, we've just taken the first step into creating Cranium Rats [sorcerers.net]. Bring enough of those together and there'll be talk about overthrowing the bonds human opression.

  • me: this is scary: http://science.slashdot.org/story/13/02/28/1615207/intercontinental-mind-meld-unites-two-rats [slashdot.org] Sent at 1:14 PM on Thursday
    Poet: scarey
    i think it is brilliant
    me: its good research, but the implications are scary
    Poet: thinking of healing applications for people with brain injury
    or spinal cord injury
    oh yeah
    me: being able to map/read sections of the brain for brain injury and to control prosthetices is great
    Poet: let the army use it create sleeper assasins all over the workd
    yet the army could
    me: but could you imagine the popup adverts coming through your nural implant telling you to go buy Tide detergent.. you dont know why you bought it, you just
    did Poet: shit
    that is scary
    me: actually you do know why you bought it.. you wanted it.. but why did you want it, and why did it feel so good to buy it.. like a hit of opium?
    jeez I am cynical

  • Tie a bunch of animal brains together around the world? Have it make decisions? Nope, no way...
  • Give us your cheese of be assimilated!
  • by Anonymous Coward

    "Are you thinking what I'm thinking, Pinky?"

    "Actually, yes, Brain; for once, I am. *narf* *poit*"

  • by WillgasM ( 1646719 ) on Thursday February 28, 2013 @02:57PM (#43037547) Homepage
    So scientists are wiring together rodent brains to create a supercomputer? Maybe my neighbor isn't schizophrenic after all.
    • Well, he is schizophrenic and unfortunately all the new supercomputer does is eat, mate and scratch, which is more or less what its creators do on the weekends, but still, you have to start somewhere.

    • I guess the wire coming out of his brain is occluded by the tinfoil hat.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I work in this field, and the work here is not nearly as revolutionary as made out.

    We have known for about a decade that a brain can learn to integrate arbitrary patterns of electrical stimuli. This work was done by many groups including the group that performed the current study, so they are clearly aware of that work. Since the placement of recording electrodes and the stimulating electrodes in these experiments are essentially random at a cellular level, there is no reason to treat the recorded signal di

  • My whiskers with your whiskers...my cheese with your cheese...


  • Or am I just showing my age when I insist on the old classic meme (not joke):

    Imagine a Beowulf Cluster of these!

  • [...] the first step towards constructing an organic computer that uses networks of linked animal brains to solve tasks.

    Doesn't this make anyone else a little uneasy? It doesn't sound terribly ethical to me...

  • The US and Brazil are in the same Continent: America
  • To be permanently wired to a porn-star.

  • "Everyone's in favor of saving Hitler's brain. But when you put it in the body of a great white shark--Ooooh! Suddenly you've gone too far!" --Professor Farnsworth
  • Anything like this? [imdb.com] (IBDB).
  • Sounds like a bumper sticker to me.

"We learn from history that we learn nothing from history." -- George Bernard Shaw