In news that’s like something straight from a Black Mirror episode, scientists have created mind-controlled rat cyborgs.
Researchers at Zhejiang University in China published the findings of their study earlier this month, which aimed to steer a rat through a maze with human thoughts.
The scientists claim their findings show ‘rat cyborgs’ can be successfully controlled and navigated by the human mind to complete navigational tasks.
The research, called Human Mind Control of Rat Cyborg’s Continuous Locomotion with Wireless Brain-to-Brain Interface, explains how brain-machine interfaces (BMIs) already allow humans to control external devices with their minds.
However, no one has ever used brain-brain interfaces (BBIs) to control a living creature and ‘complete a navigation task in a complex environment’. It is this the research set out to do, and scientists say they have succeeded.
Scientists implanted microelectrodes into the brain of a living rat – aka a ‘rat cyborg’ – and connected it to the brain of a human ‘manipulator’ who was connected to a computer BMI. Thoughts from the mind of the ‘manipulator’ sent signals to the computer, which then translated those signals and sent them to the brain of the rat.
A BBI was created through the manipulator, the rat cyborg, and the BMI and the rat was able to be steered through the maze.
The research states:
With this interface, our manipulators were able to mind control a rat cyborg to smoothly complete maze navigation tasks.
With our BBI system, a rat cyborg could accurately complete turning and forward behavior under the control of a human mind, and could perform navigation tasks in a complicated maze.
In simple terms, when the human thought about moving their left arm, the rat was commanded to turn left; when they thought about moving their right arm, the rat would turn right. And when the human blinked, the rat was commanded to move forward, VICE reports.
The research concludes:
The results showed that rat cyborgs could be smoothly and successfully navigated by the human mind to complete a navigation task in a complex maze.
Our experiments indicated that the cooperation through transmitting multidimensional information between two brains by computer-assisted BBI (brain-brain interface) is promising.
What next? Mind-controlled squirrels? Rat-controlled humans?
I don’t even want to know…
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A Broadcast Journalism Masters graduate who went on to achieve an NCTJ level 3 Diploma in Journalism, Lucy has done stints at ITV, BBC Inside Out and Key 103. While working as a journalist for UNILAD, Lucy has reported on breaking news stories while also writing features about mental health, cervical screening awareness, and Little Mix (who she is unapologetically obsessed with).