Harvard researchers have devised a way to create a functioning link between the brain of a human and a lab rat that lets a thought from the human test subject cause the rat to move its own tail. The research is a major expansion to the field of brain-computer interface (BCI), translating thoughts through a computer to another brain.
The work, published earlier this year in the journal PLOS ONE, sees a human subject hooked up to a standard BCI unit using an EEG reader, a trick we’ve seen used to control everything from games of Pong to robots. On the other end of the equation is a rat connected to a computer-brain interface (CBI) which uses focused ultrasound (FUS) to stimulate part of the rat’s brain using ultrasound waves, a notably pleasant and non-invasive method of entering another creature’s brain and hijacking its thoughts.
The EEG device senses when the human subject looks at a pattern on a computer display. When that pattern is recognized, the BCI contacts the CBI connected to the rat subject, delivering a jolt of ultrasound waves to the area of its brain that controls tail movement, stimulating it and producing tail movement in 94% of cases. Essentially, the CBI and BCI work together to translate one thought in one brain — recognizing the pattern — and deliver it as another thought in a connected brain — moving the rat’s tail.
Now that they’ve got that one more or less figured out, the researchers will likely move on to more complicated — and ever creepier — thought translations, inducing more abstract drives like hunger or arousal. If you want to take a look at the device in action, you can check it out in the video below. It’s neat, sure, but the fact is we won’t be really impressed until the team gets a bunch of rats working together and makes them sing “Fair Harvard.”
Until then if you’ve got “Mad Reign Of A Psychic Tyrant” in your office Apocalypse betting pool, this s a good day. If you don’t want strangers reading your mind and hijacking your thoughts…less good day, I guess?
- BCI machines are readily commercially available
- Controlling a rat is cool, but we’d rather control this robot with our brains
- Typing with our fingers? What is this, the 19th century?