Is it possible to connect two brains in such a way that the thoughts in one could control those in the other?
That sounds like a question whose answer would have interested Hitler and Stalin. Wouldn’t this be every dictator’s dream: not only the capacity to control how others behave but also how they think?
On the other hand, if you’re a research neuroscientist and you want to conduct experiments in mind control, all you need do to allay public fears is to say that what you hope to discover is going to help paralyzed people walk again. Whenever there’s a hint of Dr Frankenstein, it’s always good to invoke Jesus.
The New York Times reports: In an experiment that sounds straight out of a science fiction movie, a Duke neuroscientist has connected the brains of two rats in such a way that when one moves to press a lever, the other one does, too — most of the time.
The neuroscientist, Miguel Nicolelis, known for successfully demonstrating brain-machine connections, like the one in which a monkey controlled a robotic arm with its thoughts, said this was the first time one animal’s brain had been linked to another.
The question, he said, was: “Could we fool the brain? Could we make the brain process signals from another body?” The answer, he said, was yes.
He and other scientists at Duke, and in Brazil, published the results of the experiment in the journal Scientific Reports. The work received mixed reviews from other scientists, ranging from “amazing” to “very simplistic.”
Much of Dr. Nicolelis’s work is directed toward creating a full exoskeleton that a paralyzed person could operate with brain signals. Although this experiment is not directly related, he said, it helps refine the ability to read and translate brain signals, an important part of all prosthetic devices connected to the brain, and an area in which brain science is making great advances.
He also speculated about the future possibility of a biological computer, in which numerous brains are connected, and views this as a small step in that direction.