There are Real World Applications to the Mind Meld
Researchers at Duke recently announced that they have successfully wired the brains of three monkey brains together. It sounds like the work of mad scientists, and that might turn out to be true. But the researchers insist that there is not only a salient point to this experiment, but the potential for real world applications that can be extrapolated from the results of it. There have been experiments before with similar ideas regarding wiring animal brains to objects such as robot arms, and even human brains controlling man-made exoskeletons. But this is the first successful experiment to create something akin to a brain to brain interface, specifically wiring monkey brains together.
How Were Monkey Brains Wired Together?
In order to wire the monkey brains and create what is referred to as a brain network, the first thing scientists did was implant electrodes in the brains of three rhesus macaques. These electrodes that were implanted were positioned in such a way that they could pick up signals from several hundred neurons. Two to three of the monkeys were then connected to a computer that displayed a computer generated monkey arm. The monkey brains were tasked with controlling the arm, and to direct it toward a given target. The monkeys were rewarded with juice anytime they were successful. Over time, they continued to improve their ability to do this, and in this way they were able to synchronize the activity of their monkey brains.
The researchers also performed similar experiments on rats. Four rats’ brains were wired together to both transmit and collect information on neural activity. Scientists then gave the rats a series of abstract tasks to perform. The research showed that in each task, the rat collective did at least as good as a single rat would have, and at times did even better.
Why Is It Important to Wire Monkey Brains Together?
So what exactly is it we take away from this besides the fact that being a mad scientist is still a modern-day possibility? The biggest takeaway is the potential the monkey brains showed for physical and neurological rehabilitation. Someone with paralysis could potentially learn to control an exoskeleton or even link brains with a healthy volunteer to help move again. Those who have suffered a stroke or other brain injuries could use this to make faster strides in relearning speech and motor skills. There are a lot of exciting takeaways from the monkey brains experiment, though those are certainly far away in terms of practicality.