Rat to rat connectivity concept (via Duke University & Nature)


The internet has many uses, a form of indirect telepathy being one of them - millions of people can log on and share their thoughts and experiences through social media almost instantly for others to see. A research team at Duke University has taken this idea even further by demonstrating that the internet can indeed serve as a form of hard-wired telepathy - for rats, at least. The new study details the findings of an experiment that involved wiring the brains of two rats together to observe the neural transmission of information between the two.


A team of neurobiologists, headed by Miguel Nicolelis, began the experiment by training each rat to press one of two levers under a lit up LED, receiving a reward for the correct response. Next was the tricky process of attaching incredibly small electrodes, smaller than the size of a human hair, to the motor skill processing section of the brain on each rat and wiring them together. One rat was labeled the “encoder” rat, whom transmitted information to the other “decoder” rat. Their behavior was then recorded.


The first wave of tests checked for how well the lever-pressing activity could be transmitted from the decoder rat to the encoder. As the encoder rat was given a light cue to induce its lever-pressing response, its brain’s electrical activity was transferred over to the decoder rat. Though the decoder rat received no light cue, the electrical information it received directly from the encoder allowed it to press the correct lever 64% of the time and up to 72% at its peak.


Later, the scientists tested their theory - this time focusing on neural transmission of touch sensitivity. The rats were trained to use their whiskers distinguish whether an opening was wide or narrow. After the rat analyzed the opening, it was taught to poke either a computer port on the left for narrow openings or a port on the right for wide openings. Similarly, the decoder rat responded correctly 60-65% of the time. The experimenters then added a twist by giving the encoder rat an extra reward each time the decoder rat answered correctly. Deeply motivated by this positive feedback loop, the encoder rat managed to deliver a clearer signal to the decoder rat to earn that extra reward.


Finally, the rat’s internet-bound telepathic abilities were put to the test. The same experiment was conducted using an encoder lab at Duke to transmit electrical brain activity over the internet to a decoder rat all the way to Brazil. The results were very similar to what they recorded earlier in the lab-only experiment, though astonishing in the ability to transmit brain activity over the rather noisy internet.


The researchers hope to use their findings to improve the design of neural-controlled prosthetics by refining the transmission of neural activity through computer networks. After months of testing, an additional discovery was made - the decoder rat began responding to all touch sensations on the encoder rat’s whiskers. Nicolelis believes this is an important finding relating how animals understand their own bodies in accordance to how one communicates with others. This may not be full-blown telepathy quite yet, but it’s a start. Besides, the internet started as a hard-wired phenomena, now predominantly wireless for the end user - why can’t telepathy?





See more animals in science..