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Credit: Katie Zhuang, Laboratory of Dr. Miguel Nicolelis, Duke University

Rats Mind-Meld Across Continents, But To What End?

On the surface, it looks like telepathy. Two rats – one in Brazil and another in the USA – are linked in real-time by implants in the same part of their brains, the motor cortex which controls their movements. As one rat presses a lever, its implant records the activity in its motor cortex and converts it into a signal. This is sent to the implant of the second rat, which uses that information to press the same lever.

Although Miguel Nicolelis, the scientist behind the study, tells me that it’s “not the Borg”, he expects that this set-up is the first step towards an organic computer composed of several linked brains. It allows one rat to use the senses of another without even being aware of it.

But. The other scientists I spoke to, who all work in the field of neural implants, were distinctly unimpressed by the study, both with the simplicity of what the mice actually did or the point of the whole exercise. You can read my full report over at Nature News