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Jul 31,2015 by Edulab
The human brain is amazing. It’s the most complex object in the known universe, and has kept generations of scientists guessing.
Whilst a single neuron on its own isn’t really that impressive, link billions of these together and you have a brain, and that’s when things get really exciting!
But why stop there? If there’s one thing better than a single brain its multiple brains, surely. And that’s exactly what a team of intrepid scientists have attempted to demonstrate.
That’s right, a team of researchers from the Duke University Medical Centre have developed a method of linking together the brains of multiple monkeys, forming what they have described as an ‘organic computer ‘.
Intrigued? Then you’re in luck as here we’re going to take a closer look at this jaw- dropping development.
Say Hello To The Brainnet
Computers are great and all, but they can’t quite match the brilliance of a brain. Simply put, brains work better, after all, they are faster and more creative than even the most complex computers.
Hence if you wanted to build a computer better than a brain then you would have to build one… from brains! And that’s exactly what a team of scientists claim to have done, by linking up the brains of monkeys.
These networked monkeys were able to put their heads together – literally – to control an avatar arm. Thus challenging the notion that our minds will always remain isolated from those of others.
Telepathy is not exactly a new idea, in fact, it’s been around for quite a while. What’s more, scientists have already demonstrated that it is possible to use brain signals to control mechanical devices such as prosthetics.
Oh, and that’s not all, a team of researchers have also previously revealed that it is possible to transmit signals from one brain to another to control a person’s body movements – yeah, we know, pretty mind blowing stuff!
But up until now no one had successfully managed to link up a network of brains together in order to accomplish a single task.
More specifically, in this remarkable new study, scientists fitted two – or three – rhesus monkeys with a series of electrodes in order to record electrical activity from the hundreds of neurons in the motor regions of their brains.
The monkeys then independently learned to control the movements of an avatar arm shown on a digital display in front of them, just by imagining moving it. Once the scientists were satisfied that the monkeys were proficient enough at this task, the monkeys were then given joint control of the arm, and that’s when things got really interesting!
Whilst their brains were not directly linked together, remarkably, the monkeys soon began to intuitively synchronise their brain activity, allowing them to move the arm collaboratively in order to achieve a desired goal – namely reaching for a virtual ball on the screen. Thus achieving a mind-meld of sorts.
So wire enough monkey brains together and maybe your really can get Shakespeare!
In the long term, the team behind this remarkable research believe that their findings could be of tremendous benefit for brain rehabilitation. For example, in the future they propose that it may be possible to restore language abilities more quickly in stroke patients if their brains were to be re-trained by directly synchronising them with the language regions of the brains of healthy people.
Whilst there’s no doubt that this research raises the prospect of a whole host of mind-bending possibilities, it has also raised a few ethical concerns too. And has led some to pose the question as to whether neural privacy issues may be the ethical concerns of the future?
All told, this is a pretty heavy question to think about. And for now at least, you’re going to have to solve it on your own!
Here at Edulab as premier suppliers of high quality laboratory glassware we love science and just had to share this incredible story with you. After all, real-life mind melds don’t happen every day!
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