Harvard University researchers have created the world's first non-invasive brain-to-brain interface between a human and a rat. Simply put, you can control the rat with thoughts, making for a both fascinating-yet-terrifying discovery (hello Nineteen-Eighty Four). This is a critical step towards technology allowing for telepathic links between human beings.
Little research has been made into finding out how humans think, because we have almost no clue about how they're encoded by our neurons. With this in mind, great advances have been made in brain-computer interfaces (BCI) that can detect what you think; but not so much in the opposite direction (computer-brain interfaces (CBI)). To inject new thoughts into a human brain is near impossible with our current understanding.
Mix these together, and you end up with Harvard's brain-to-brain interface. While the human wears a BCI, the rat is equipped with a CBI, sending signals to a very specific region of neurons using ultrasound. This presents a breakthrough as the use of focused ultrasound to control the animal means no invasive procedure is needed, and this technology could be small enough for human use in the future.
As the human looks at one of a range of patterns on a computer screen, the BCI detects this and fires off a command to the rat's CBI. This triggers a beam of ultrasound, instructing the rat's motor cortex that deals with tail movement, causing it to move. The process takes 1.5 seconds, and has had a 94% success rate.
So what's next for this technology? Researchers are looking into transmitting more complex ideas, such as hunger. Testing this on rats will continue; but at some point they'll have to try it out on humans to see if this is still as effective. Of course this could create ethical concerns, of a tyrannical dictatorship nature.
Source: PLOS ONE
I am the Founder and Editor-in-chief of New Rising Media. You can follow me on Twitter @MrJasonEngland.