You would think we’ve brought enough sci-fi to life, for the time being. But, what if I told you that now there are three monkeys with one brain? The collective mind of Star Trek’s Borgs is really not that far away, is it?
And not only did the scientists at Duke University connect three monkey brains together, but also four rat brains. This may seem quite disturbing science, but lead researcher Miguel Nicolelis explains that there are very good reasons behind what he and his team are doing.
Nicolelis became world famous when, at the 2014 World Cup in soccer, he connected the brain of a paraplegic to an exoskeleton, allowing him to kick-off the tournament. Yet, Nicolelis has been working with brains for a very long period of time in order to accomplish this. For over 16 years he has toyed with the brains of mice and other animals. In 1999, Nicolelis managed to connect the brain of a rat to a robotic arm and prompted the poor creature to do simple tasks in order to get specific rewards.
That is essentially what he’s done with the monkeys. Specifically, rhesus macaques, the monkeys’ brains were connected to a few electrodes which were positioned so as to record the impulses from several hundred neurons. Then the monkeys were shown a computer screen upon which was drawn a 3D arm. According to how the monkeys thought collectively, the arm showed different responses. The monkeys were asked to move the arm in a specific way in order to get a reward.
The reward the monkeys were given – juice – had to be itself the subject of a micro-study so as to determine which furry friend like which type of juice. Hey – monkeys have preferences too. This necessity for the study should be obvious, since if all monkeys would want all the juice, the results would have been… inconclusive.
The monkeys quickly understood what type of thinking they needed to do for the arm to move in the desired direction and, obviously, for them to get more of that sweet liquid the researchers were rewarding them with.
The rat test, on the other hand, got a bit weirder, if you can believe that that’s possible. The rats’ brains were completely interconnected, and then the rats were remotely asked to tell if it will rain or not based on temperatures and air pressure data being provided.
This science is frightening, and its ethical implications are yet to be studied, but if we would watch a bit of Star Trek, then we might easily get extremely skeptical to these types of “hive-minds.”
Image source: ubergizmo.com