Telepathy isn’t real. You can’t read minds with nothing but the tools you were born with. But add a little bit of wiring and that starts to change. Scientists have now managed to get two lab rats to think in-sync with just a little augmentation.
The experiment, documented in a recent issue of Scientific Reports, involved wiring two rats’ brains together in a very literal way. The Duke University team implanted hair-sized electrodes in the motor signal centres of both rats’ brains, and trained the first rat — the “encoder” — to press a lever when it saw a light. The little jolts of thought were then sent to the second rat’s brain through a bit of cable. And then, despite having no light stimulus of its own, the second rat would hit its own lever 64 per cent of the time on average, 72 per cent of the time at peak. Way better than random chance in both cases.
Since the trick worked in a lab setting, researchers went on to try a few variations. First, they triggered the second rat with a computer-generated signal instead of a rat-made one. Then, they sent a signal all the way to Brazil, over a vanilla Internet connection. Both variations worked just about as well, regardless of distance or signal origin.
While it’s a promising instance of real-world “telepathy,” and it could have applications in brain-controlled, Luke Skywalker-grade prosthetics, there’s still quite a way to go. As professor of neurobiology at the University of Pittsburgh, Andrew Schwartz, pointed out to Discovery, this is just a yes/no signal; it’s literally as simple as a signal gets. And 72 per cent is far from 100. But still, transmitting data directly from brain-to-brain over the internet is sure to spark up your imagination. Who knows, someday you might be able to beam those thoughts directly to your buddies over the web. If you’re into that. [Discovery via Geekosystem]