In a study that sounds almost too bizarre to be true, a group of researchers at Zheijang University in Zhejiang Sheng, China, reported a breakthrough in Brain Machine Interfaces. The researchers implanted micro-electrodes to the rat’s brain, and had a human hook up to a computer. The human was then able to mind control the rat by thinking about moving their left arm, which caused the rat to turn left in the maze, detailed The Sun. This was possible because the computer would send the signal between the human to the rat.
While the rat had an electrode attached to their brain, the humans didn’t have to deal with any invasive technology to get hooked up to the computer, according to Discover Magazine.
“The results showed that rat cyborgs could be smoothly and successfully navigated by the human mind to complete a navigation task in a complex maze. Our experiments indicated that the cooperation through transmitting multidimensional information between two brains by computer-assisted brain-machine interfaces is promising.”
At this point, it’s unclear whether there are any health risks to the rat having implants on their brain, or what the scientists’ goals are in the long run in developing this technology.
“The holy grail of BBI would be sharing rich content that cannot be better expressed in words, such as emotions and feelings. We are still so far from that, but, of course, that would be the dream,” the University of Washington’s Andrea Stocco explained.
And here I was thinking "Rat Cyborg" was an 80's punk rock band with a bit of vision.https://t.co/hxpNyimjsw
— Derek M. Hansen (@DerekMHansen) February 23, 2019
The technology is refined enough that the rats are able to move through complex mazes with “tight turns, multiple levels and a specific prescribed path.” Discover Magazine called them “rat cyborgs,” which is an interesting take on these animals that appear to be under mind control.
With all this being said, Stocco stood up for the Chinese researchers.
“The Zhang paper IS for real, and I don’t see anything unplausible [sic] about it,” Stocco said. The scientist also suggested that the technology could be used to remotely control a surgeon’s hand. Additionally, Harvard lab director Seung-Schik Yoo noted that the technology could be a double-edged sword. Meanwhile, Stocco said that we are very far away from the technology being applied to humans.
After all, the rats have implants on their brains, and replicating that in humans would be much more complicated. Besides the physical implant process, the technology could raise a series of ethical and moral questions about whether it’s acceptable for human use.
https://t.co/SCBAOLKSes Chinese scientists developed what they call a “rat cyborg” that can be controlled wirelessly by a human mind. Researchers wearing an EEG hat navigated the rodents through a maze using blinks and shoulder shrugs. They say the same tech could be applied to… pic.twitter.com/sfnBr4YnTI
— Science news (@UpdateonScience) February 15, 2019