Two rats, one brain: Researchers achieve rodent hive mind?

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Elizabeth Fish

Although it's unlikely that we'll have to worry about mind-bending rodents anytime soon, the idea that scientists have successfully conjoined the brains of two mammals is still a little unnerving.

According to a paper published in Scientific Reports, researchers at Duke University have devised a "brain to brain interface" that effectively links together the brains of two rats. Eek.

The team achieved this slightly unnerving feat with the help of tiny electrodes linked to the parts of the rats' brains responsible for motor signals—each one but a fraction of the size of a human hair. In one experiment, they trained the rats to activate one of two levers whenever a light switched on. Though only one rat—known as the "encoder"—was provided with the appropriate stimuli, the other one hit the correct lever roughly 64 to 72 percent of the time.

More interestingly, perhaps, is the fact that after a month of training for another experiment, the second rat's brain began responding whenever something or someone touched the encoder rat's whiskers.

It's not quite a breakthrough in telepathic communication between mammals just yet. Andrew Schwartz at the University of Pittsburgh told Discovery that this experiment was a bit simplistic in that it "only involved a binary [yes or no] decision," and that "brain-computer interface technology and demonstrations have moved far beyond this." Of course, that doesn't make us any less weirded out by the prospect of a rodent hive mind. That said, we're still waiting for real-life mind-melds.

[Scientific Reports via Discovery and Geekosystem]

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This story, "Two rats, one brain: Researchers achieve rodent hive mind?" was originally published by TechHive.

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