back to article Mind-melded rats could herald organic BRAIN-COMPUTERS

Neuroboffins at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, have managed to link the brains of two rats on different continents in an experiment they claim could pave the way for organic supercomputers built from networked animal brains. In a paper published in the journal Scientific Reports on Thursday, Duke researcher Miguel …


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  1. jake Silver badge

    ""Rats don't have a sense of self"

    The so-called "researchers" have no clue about animals. Ignore them.

    And for GAWD/ESS's sake, don't give them any more research dollars!

    1. Crisp

      Re: ""Rats don't have a sense of self"

      Are they sure that rats don't have a sense of self?

      My rats apparently seem to have a sense of self. Which I can demonstrate with two rats, a mirror and a banana chip.

  2. Neil Barnes Silver badge
    Big Brother

    I, for one...

    welcome our mind-melded rat-king overlords!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I, for one...

      Can't be any worse than the rats who are currently in control

  3. K
    Thumb Down

    I'm no pro-animal-rights-maniac..

    If there was some explainable means to and end, then fine!

    But seeing those poor vermin cabled up like some peripheral pisses me off. I appreciate some experiments are "publicly sensitive", but there is a reason the public gets mad - Its calls a moral compass.

    1. Jim 59

      Re: I'm no pro-animal-rights-maniac..

      Agree. A pointless abomination. At first I thought they might be investigating nerve injuries but no, their ideas are more in the "perverted science" domain.

      On the other hand, a flame throwing mind-melded reg-commentard beast would be a thing to behold. We could take over the world! Or at least make some pithy comments.

    2. Dr. Mouse

      Re: I'm no pro-animal-rights-maniac..

      "If there was some explainable means to and end, then fine!"

      There is. Read the article.

      OK, it was probably started with "I wonder what would happen if we linked 2 brains together" (possibly followed by "that'd be so cool! Now get another round in") , but the research shows that joining 2 brains may have some purpose.

      Personally, I hate the idea of experimenting on animals. I think it is cruel. However, it is a necessary evil in my view. Without it we would not be able to do half of what we do today. I hope, some day, we no longer need to, but for now it's the best option available to us.

  4. Dr Stephen Jones

    And with one giant leap...

    See how the Boffin jumps from 'shared nervous system' to 'solving cognitive problems'.

    Which tells us he doesn't know what cognition is. Unless your brain is in your bum muscle.

    1. Andy The Hat Silver badge

      Re: And with one giant leap...

      Actually he jumped from motor cortex to cognitive brain functions which is like jumping from roller skates to an autopiloted space shuttle ... but the shuttle is still useless if you're going to the shops ...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: See how the Boffin (Commenter) jumps from ...

      Please do not confuse the press release with the science.

      A quick skim of the actual article reveals none of the wild speculation present here. The most speculative I can see is this: "Such a computing structure could define the first example of an organic computer capable of solving heuristic problems that would be deemed non-computable by a general Turing-machine."

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Welcome to the BORG

    We will assimilate you, Unless your name is Jean-Luc Picard in which case we know what happens....

  6. jai

    i know it's not what the experiment was, but when i saw the headline on the news this morning i assumed they'd just observed that when rat A thinks of cheese, so does rat B!

  7. plrndl

    Better start dumping that Cat 5 cable then.

    1. Crisp

      Yeah, you're going to need to replace all that with Rat 5.

  8. unhandled_exception

    Perfect illustration of what's wrong with science today

    Sadly too often it's all about getting research dollars/pounds/euros by producing buzzword-infested papers regardless of the real utility or contribution to actual knowledge, and regardless as well of the ethical implications, like this misguided Frankenstein experiment. It's the equivalent of plucking the legs of grasshoppers and claiming that you are doing research. Disgusting.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Dr Mengele would be proud

    If they do this with primates I am totally serious.

  10. Chris Hawkins

    Two beings required: Mars 2018

    I am totally with those who are affronted by the use of animals in this way. It is like the researchers who wired up a cat a couple of years ago to be able to see through its eyes!

    On light thought, seem to remember that rodents were involved in the research leading to "the answer is 42" in Hitchhikers Guide. If they are that bright maybe they or their Borgish descendants should be given the chance, as an apology, to do the Mars Mission in 2018!!

  11. Steve Martins

    The obvious application...

    ... so when can I order my miniature Counterstrike maze complete with mice with frikkin' lasers attached to their heads and the obligatory halflife-mindmeld interface. Let rodent warfare commence!!

  12. hugo tyson

    The Beeb article said it tool a *lot* of training....

    says: "[It] takes about 45 days of training an hour a day," said Prof Nicolelis.

    "There is a moment in time when... it clicks. Suddenly the [decoder] animal realises: 'Oops! The solution is in my head. It's coming to me' and he gets it right." who knows what kind of stimulus the decoder is experiencing; the smell of almonds? Nostalgia?

    1. plrndl

      Re: The Beeb article said it tool a *lot* of training....

      So that's on a par with the average PFY then.

      1. plrndl

        Re: The Beeb article said it tool a *lot* of training....

        Thinking of PFYs, they'd probably get better results (at least in the short term) if the incentive was beer rather than water.

    2. Ken 16 Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      Re: The Beeb article said it tool a *lot* of training....

      There can't be much to do in North Carolina, can there?

  13. Blatantly Obvious

    Should have known

    You ever regret past comments? I do. I feel sorry for the rats. They don't have a say in it.

    I was daft enough to mention in a couple of places in the past that brains could be networked together. This is not what I envisioned. It was in reply to the abilities of brainport technology, currently used to provide one way feedback to human hosts from video cameras ie providing sight to the blind. I then highlighted that the same approach could be used with other types of data, including UV, infra red, ultrasound etc. I further highlighted that the language barrier would be broken and potentially the species barrier as brain to brain communication offered a far more efficient means of utilizing the brain's natural plasticity. Language and individual thinking is slow and inefficient, limited by it's own natural resources and relatively slow learning mechanisms.

    I did not have this in mind. I was expecting development using the human nervous system - preferably developed for those with disabilities who could volunteer for testing and benefit in the process. I would have thought that a far more constructive approach than direct brain surgery on helpless animals.

  14. Blatantly Obvious

    You heard the rumor that sometimes after brain interfacing the effects persist a short time?

    Are they training a new breed of telepathic rats, to coordinate their attacks on lab scientists? lol

  15. Anonymous Coward

    Pinky, are you pondering what I'm pondering?

    I think so Brain, but then why hasn't anybody else made a P&TB joke before now?

  16. Admiral Grace Hopper

    Alan Moore got there first.

    Rat King

    1. Martin Gregorie

      Alan More's Rat King? Pah: a mere latecomer

      Kornbluth & Pohl: Wolfbane (1959) was there first with surgically linked human brains used as computers by alien invaders. Like all their novels its a good read with carefully thought-out ideas and insights.

    2. Vic

      > Alan Moore got there first.

      Exactly. I weas wondering what the big deal was, because Anybody Could Have Done It.


  17. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Black Helicopters

    Whose funding this research?

    It is the ability to remotely coerce another brain into carrying out what you want them to do.

    The neat part of this is they seem to have tried out various locations for the electrodes to get the best results. So they are sharpening up the tools for this exercise.

    That does not sound much like some kind of organic networked computer to me. More like the descendents of MKSearch/ MKUltra.

    I'd agree the Phol/Kornbluth novel "Wolfbane" is very good example of the supposed purpose of this idea. Likewise I can see the point of being able to descramble the actual optic nerve signals to enable advanced prostheses. As described so far not so sure.

    Highly suspicious.

  18. Eddy Ito

    I don't know

    It's all too Matrix meets Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy for me. If it gives the answer as 42... Let's just say I'll keep a towel and a red pill handy.

  19. Duncan 4
    Thumb Down

    if what they are trying to do is at all possible even slighty possible i think it's clear you could put this bunch of nitwits in a lab and throw an much money at them as you like and never get real progress. 64 %? 100% this is utter rubbish and no ratty mind meld action took place , now stop wasting busy rats time

  20. The Grump

    Rat Wars

    Use your mind-controlled battle rat to battle the rats of other trainers. Become the ultimate rat battlelord. [Puts on mind control helmet]. I just hope this minnnnnd kontrulllll hellllmutttt isssssnt tooo wayyyyy ............squeak, squeak, squeak.

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      Re: Rat Wars

      "Use your mind-controlled battle rat to battle the rats of other trainers. Become the ultimate rat battlelord. [Puts on mind control helmet]. I just hope this minnnnnd kontrulllll hellllmutttt isssssnt tooo wayyyyy ............squeak, squeak, squeak."

      You laugh now.

      But you'll be playing it in 2 years time.

  21. JassMan

    Call me squeamish but I can't say I am looking forward to the day when a bunch of self aware linked primate brains decides that it has more intellect than the humans who put it together and that it should be the ruler of the entire planet. Especially if it takes offence at the way it has been treated.

    I hope someone is ensuring there are failsafes in place here.

    1. Euripides Pants


      For linked primate brains: a big pile of poo to fling

      For linked canine brains: a tennis ball

      For linked cat brains: a piece of string

      For linked rat brains: let them know about the linked cat brains

  22. Justin Clift


    I'll be more interesting when they can record, translate, and play back the experiences of Subject A for Subject B.

    The translation layer could be tricky at first. Would likely need some intermediary (generic) way to represent experiences, which are re-encoded at playback time for each target individual.

    Wouldn't be too surprising if this becomes a world of patent hurt. :/

  23. Clyde

    Real rats don't drink beer

    "Rats don't have a sense of self"

    Obviously never seen the film BEN then !

    That was creepier than the Exorcist.

  24. daveeff

    > next step will be to move up the evolutionary ladder from rats to monkeys

    I'd have thought improving on 14% above random results would be the "next step" - or were there more than two levers?

    Still we could have them ru[i/n]ning the banks with that kind of success rate.

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