Alright conspiracy theorists, you can stop talking about the moment when science develops a method for humans to control other animals. It’s already here, now strap on those tinfoil hats so some shadowy figure in an underground base in Mesa, Arizona can’t control your thoughts.
Harvard scientists have created a non-invasive method that enables a human being to control another animal with only a simple thought. Seriously.
It’s called brain-to-brain interface and apparently we’ve been working on accomplishing this stuff for years. Actually brain-computer interface (BCI) is not that new. In 2002 we used invasive BCI to restore sight to Jens Naumann via an implant directly in the brain. It wasn’t that perfect, although he was able to drive an automobile slowly around the parking lot after the surgery.
In 2005, tetraplegic Matt Nagle was the first person to control an artificial hand through a chip implanted in the area of his brain responsible for arm movement.
While those accomplishments may seem (and quite frankly are) impressive, developing a method to use one’s brain to interface with another brain is astronomically more difficult. Researchers are still trying to grasp how electrical signals are encoded in neurons. We can stimulate an area of the body through thought, by forcing specific muscles to activate in the human body through a brain-to-brain (or even BCI) is still highly misunderstood.
In order to actually get a human to control an animal (in this case a rat) with thought, Harvard scientists used an EEG based BCI and strapped it on the human while the rat was equipped with a focused ultrasound computer-to-brain interface (CBI), both devices are non-invasive (no cybernetic implants, folks). The EEG was used to detect when a human would look at a certain pattern on a computer screen and the brain-computer interface would send a signal to the rat’s brain region that handled tail movement, and the tail moved — 94% of the time. The entire process takes about 1.5 seconds, and technically the person could think about moving the rat’s tail, but for the experiment they used a visual cue instead.
Eventually these researchers want this brain-to-brain interface to translate more complex ideas like hunger, sexual arousal, and fear — which is frightening in itself. Check out the video of the experiment below and big thanks to ExtremeTech for the find and DENV3RtheDESTROY3R for the news tip.