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Intercontinental Mind-Meld Unites Two Rats

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the my-squeeks-to-your-squeeks dept.

Science 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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176 comments

Intercontinental? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43036313)

And I thought Brazil and the United States belonged to the same continent...

Re:Intercontinental? (3, Informative)

gmclapp (2834681) | about a year ago | (#43036437)

North America and South America are different continents...

Re:Intercontinental? (2)

Eevee (535658) | about a year ago | (#43037379)

North America and South America are different continents...

Citation needed.

The boundaries that make up continents are to a degree arbitrary and depend upon the person making the statement. There's no real justification for Europe being a continent; Europe and a large part of Asia are on one tectonic plate, while the easternmost part of Asia is on the same plate as North America. And the Indian subcontinent is on yet another plate.

So, it's ultimately local custom that determines the number of continents. I've seen Europeans refer to the Americas as one continent. For example, the Olympic rings were at one time intended to represent five continents.

The Olympic flag ... has a white background, with five interlaced rings in the centre: blue, yellow, black, green and red ... This design is symbolic ; it represents the five inhabited continents of the world, united by Olympism, while the six colors are those that appear on all the national flags of the world at the present time. -- Pierre De Coubertin (1931)

(The quote's copied from Wikipedia, so in five minutes it's entirely possible that De Coubertin would have said the flag represents the population of elephants tripling within six months.)

Re:Intercontinental? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43036477)

Hemisphere? Yes. Continent? No.

Surely you've heard of North America and South America, right? Yes, they're connected by land, but so are Europe, Asia and Africa... they're still separate continents.

Re:Intercontinental? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43036651)

The United States belong to the Northern Hemisphere, Brazil to the Southern Hemisphere. So they are not on the same hemisphere.

Re:Intercontinental? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43036741)

He was referring to the Western Hemisphere.

Re:Intercontinental? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43037489)

He was referring to the Western Hemisphere.

That is not well-defined. North and south is.

Re:Intercontinental? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43036495)

And I thought Brazil and the United States belonged to the same continent...

Then you thought wrong. Brazil belongs to the continent South America, the United States belong to the continent North America.

Re:Intercontinental? (5, Funny)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about a year ago | (#43036647)

And I thought Brazil and the United States belonged to the same continent...

Yea, that can happen when you sleep through geography.

Re:Intercontinental? (1)

Sarten-X (1102295) | about a year ago | (#43036837)

Ah, but this is not a question of geography, but rather one of politics...

God bless the United Earth of America!

Re:Intercontinental? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43037051)

So, whose politics shaped the tectonic plates [wikipedia.org]?

Re:Intercontinental? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43037293)

The Atlanteans...and you see how well that worked out for them.

Re:Intercontinental? (1)

LordLimecat (1103839) | about a year ago | (#43037085)

Continents are land-masses, not political divisions.

Gotta love slashdot and its tradition of snarky, but ignorant, posts.

Re:Intercontinental? (2)

Graydyn Young (2835695) | about a year ago | (#43037397)

Even as a question of geography, it's still two separate continents. North and South America are each on their own continental plate.

Re:Intercontinental? (2)

SailorSpork (1080153) | about a year ago | (#43037295)

Okay, so how about this for a better headline: "Two-headed mutant killer cyber-rats plotting world domination: they share a mind, but may-or-may-not-be-on-different-continents-but-are-at-least-4000-miles-apart. Nothing to contest in that statement now. All happy?

International flame-bait (1, Insightful)

Master Moose (1243274) | about a year ago | (#43037433)

And I thought Brazil and the United States belonged to the same continent...

Yea, that can happen when you sleep through geography.

Or take Geography at a U.S. school.

Re:International flame-bait (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43037721)

And I thought Brazil and the United States belonged to the same continent...

Yea, that can happen when you sleep through geography.

Or take Geography at a U.S. school.

Nope US schools teach that North America and South America are different continents. It's gotta be europeans or something that think they're the same. The 7 continents as taught in U.S. schools are:

North America
South America
Europe
Asia
Africa
Australia
Antartica

What... (1)

kiep (1821612) | about a year ago | (#43036343)

...could go wrong?

Re:What... (1)

gmuslera (3436) | about a year ago | (#43036505)

Usually people in power is the one that go wrong. Rats have little brain power, so humans could be the logical choice for mind melding, they are cheaper to maintain and are more abundant than other big brained animals. Want a job giving your brain for the next generation of computing 8 hours a day? And once humans get into the equation, we will effectively be the Borg.

Re:What... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43036581)

If they succeed with animals, humans are next.

cool. (2)

geekoid (135745) | about a year ago | (#43036355)

". 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.

Re:cool. (1)

dywolf (2673597) | about a year ago | (#43036871)

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?

Re:cool. (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about a year ago | (#43037353)

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.

Re:cool. (2)

jfengel (409917) | about a year ago | (#43037299)

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-dressing; it comes as no surprise to anybody that you can transfer a bit over the Internet.

The complexities of behavior are not at all due to the signal being sent. Those were laboriously trained in. All that was needed was the single "go" signal. With all the extraneous factors, it's hard to tell what's actually novel here, and the razzle-dazzle of those extraneous factors suggests that the answer is "nothing".

I'm sure it's actually more than nothing, since there is a difference between "we knew that we could do that" and "we actually did it". But it's far, far less than the press release makes it sound.

It is the future. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43037741)

Today, the depth, profundity, expressive power, and content of a human thought has some strict biologically-imposed limits. There are only so many neurons available to participate in it.

Once humans can link up using tech like this, they will be able to participate in thoughts far greater than any that have ever been thunk before (by any and every measurable criteria). No single human will grasp the thought in its totality, but the higher-order "metamind" that is created by the network of humans will grasp the thought, and be able to act on it.

It will be a very interesting day indeed.

What are we going to do today, Brain? (4, Funny)

Jeremi (14640) | about a year ago | (#43036375)

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

A basket of brains? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43036393)

Or a basket case?

Sure... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43036399)

what could go wrong?

Re:Sure... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43037057)

Ahhh... but what could go right?

http://www.welookdoyou.com/fufme/index.shtml.html

I think I heard about this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43036413)

I move, You move. Just like that?

Four Mice? (1)

gmclapp (2834681) | about a year ago | (#43036417)

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 /.

I for one... (2)

srobert (4099) | about a year ago | (#43036427)

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

Re:I for one... (3, Insightful)

camperdave (969942) | about a year ago | (#43037017)

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

... out of respect to our cyber-enhanced rat overlords.

Re:I for one... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43037877)

God schmod, I want my monkey-man!

What, that's not the one you were thinking of?

Fucking Great! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43036431)

Now we can use distributed methods to apply the Ludovico technique.

Don't worry: this will only be used for the Greater Good.

Interconnected brains? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43036449)

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."

Sounds just like Dead Stop [memory-alpha.org].

Rat Wireheading (3, Insightful)

lazarus (2879) | about a year ago | (#43036457)

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.

Re:Rat Wireheading (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43036623)

Common practice in the field, actually.

CAPTCHA: anatomy

Re:Rat Wireheading (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43036779)

If one feels that way, I'm guessing the other will too.

Not the Borg? (4, Interesting)

Roogna (9643) | about a year ago | (#43036521)

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

Re:Not the Borg? (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about a year ago | (#43036687)

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:Not the Borg? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43036829)

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.

Re:Not the Borg? (1)

jez9999 (618189) | about a year ago | (#43036761)

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

Re:Not the Borg? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43036773)

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

Ssh, the unsuspecting are easier to assimilate.

Not telepathy, not Borg... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43036533)

No, it's a new interface for rodents, allowing the moving of information from one location to another electronically.

It's the new Ratmouse.

Obligatory (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43036539)

I for one welcome our new intercontinental rat overlords.

Captcha: transmit

Clustering (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43036551)

Imagine a Wolf cluster of these.

Re:Clustering (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43036573)

I think that would be called a Beorat cluster.

Cranium Rats (1)

Keith111 (1862190) | about a year ago | (#43036653)

Wow. We're making Cranium Rats? Anyone that has played Planescape Torment knows thats a bad idea.

Re:Cranium Rats (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43036757)

It's only a bad idea if you can't ID which one got the caster template in the swarm. Remove those and you've just got ugly rats.

Predicted by science fiction? (3, Interesting)

CRCulver (715279) | about a year ago | (#43036693)

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.

Re:Predicted by science fiction? (2)

deadweight (681827) | about a year ago | (#43037187)

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.

Re:Predicted by science fiction? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43037649)

The Tines are repeatedly described as more like evolved sea mammals of some sort--like long-necked seals. They behave more like packs of dogs, though, and that's the metaphor through which the humans generally interact with them.

Re:Predicted by science fiction? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43038151)

So like the Geth of Mass Effect.

Imagine a... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43036695)

What is the maximum number of mice that can be connected in this way?

Imagine a Beowulf cluster of them!

Douglas Adams was right! (1)

garyebickford (222422) | about a year ago | (#43036717)

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.

Re:Douglas Adams was right! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43036875)

Also, look at all the diseases that can be cured in mice but not the humans and the genetic enhancements available to mice.

Been done already.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43036789)

Not sure why this type of experiments is making into the news now. Similar and more advanced experiments where conducted 20 years ago already with far more exciting results. Is science spinning in a mud never going to stop?

The Shining? (1)

Mraggoth (2837661) | about a year ago | (#43036791)

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.

I want to know the protocol. (4, Funny)

QilessQi (2044624) | about a year ago | (#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.

Re:I want to know the protocol. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43037253)

Protocols aren't built on top of SSL, SSL can be used to securely wrap other protocols. The payload inside of an SSL/TLS tunnel has nothing to do with the tunnel itself. HTTPS isn't built on top of SSL, it's HTTP wrapped in SSL.

Is one named, ``Lady El''? (2)

WillAdams (45638) | about a year ago | (#43036869)

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

Re:Is one named, ``Lady El''? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43037303)

No, but Algernon issued a press release stating that he was doing fine after the neurosurgery.

While interesting, unethical (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43036913)

How'd you like a set of electrodes in your brain, in the name of experimental science?

This is how it starts (1)

kruach aum (1934852) | about a year ago | (#43036939)

Next time I'm traversing the Warrens, looking for the Decanter of Endless Water, I'll remember that this is how that bullshit started.

And the rat said... (1)

Chemisor (97276) | about a year ago | (#43036953)

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.

I admit the financial possibilities are endless (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about a year ago | (#43037011)

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 alignment, it's doubtful neural networks at the individual neuron level are identically positioned in rats any more than skin cells are.

4. Even if neural network topology on the individual neuron level are identical between rats, again they wouldn't line up any more than eyes do for humans needing glasses.

Should have tried that with cats. (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year ago | (#43037045)

...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!

Cranium Rats (1)

discord5 (798235) | about a year ago | (#43037047)

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.

Got into a conversation with my mom about this (1)

wbr1 (2538558) | about a year ago | (#43037073)

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

There's no way this could go wrong... (1)

dawich (945673) | about a year ago | (#43037087)

Tie a bunch of animal brains together around the world? Have it make decisions? Nope, no way...

Imagine a Beowulf cluster.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43037323)

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

Pinky and the Brain (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43037405)

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

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

Wait... (2)

WillgasM (1646719) | about a year ago | (#43037547)

So scientists are wiring together rodent brains to create a supercomputer? Maybe my neighbor isn't schizophrenic after all.

Sensationalist not revolutionary (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43037549)

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 differently from any signal derived from task related timing.

Using two animals and the internet is really just a sensationalist re-hash of what has already been well described. Sure it is an engineering achievement, but the claim that there is a 'single nervous system' is wildly overstated. The fact that this study is making such waves is really frustrating to may of us who are working on similar topics because it seems to be rewarding sensationalism rather than progress.

What, no Beowulf Cluster joke? (1)

gurps_npc (621217) | about a year ago | (#43037861)

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

Imagine a Beowulf Cluster of these!

No-one else has said it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43037973)

" the work, published today, is the first step towards constructing an organic computer that uses networks of linked animal brains to solve tasks." How is that not a horrificially unethical case of animal cruelty? The sad thing is, no-one else on Slashdot seems to give a crap about anything other than humans (or themselves?).
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