Move over SkyNet, because RatNet is already here. Scientists out of Duke University Medical Center in North Carolina created an artificial communication channel between two rats, effectively allowing the rat's brains to 'talk' to one another directly through an electronic link.
The scientists implanted microelectrodes in the segment of the rat's brains that processes motor information. Once the rat's brains were linked via cable, the scientists devised a simple method to test whether the rat's were actually communicating through the electronic link.
The rats were placed in separate chambers, each containing a pair of switches. Pressing one switch would release a reward. The first rat, dubbed the 'encoder', was given a visual cue as to which switch contained the reward. The 'decoder' rat was not given any cues. When the 'encoder' rat pressed the correct switch, the signal was sent through the cable to the 'decoder' rat. If the 'decoder' rat selected the right switch, the 'encoder' rat was given an additional reward.
The study showed that, after 45 days of training, the decoder rat was able to decode the signal correctly 70% of the time. A similar experiment was conducted that connected a rat at Duke University with another in the University of Natal in Brazil. The rats were able to successfully communicate over thousands of miles.
Researchers eventually want to extend the linkages across a large number of animals. So far, the technique requires invasive procedures that bar it from being used among humans, but if a non-invasive method could be discovered, humans too could potentially directly link their brains across thousands of miles.