Neurobiologists have shown that brain signals from multiple animals can be combined to perform certain tasks better than a single brain
Mike Orcutt reports: New research proves that two heads are indeed better than one, at least at performing certain simple computational tasks.
The work demonstrates for the first time that multiple animal brains can be networked and harnessed to perform a specific behavior, says Miguel Nicolelis, a professor of neurobiology and biomedical engineering at Duke University and an expert in brain-machine interfaces.
“Even though the monkeys didn’t know they were collaborating, their brains became synchronized very quickly, and over time they got better and better at moving the arm.”
He says this type of “shared brain-machine interface” could potentially be useful for patients with brain damage, in addition to shedding light on how animal brains work together to perform collective behaviors.
Networked Monkey Brains Could Help Disabled Humans
Nicolelis and his colleagues published two separate studies today, one involving rats and the other involving monkeys, that describe experiments on networks of brains and illustrate how such “brainets” could be used to combine electrical outputs from the neurons of multiple animals to perform tasks. The rat brain networks often performed better than a single brain can, they report, and in the monkey experiment the brains of three individuals “collaborated” to complete a virtual reality-based task too complicated for a single one to perform.
“In the monkey experiment, the researchers combined two or three brains to perform a virtual motor task in three dimensions. After implanting electrodes, they used rewards to train individual monkeys to move a virtual arm to a target on a screen.”
To build a brain network, the researchers first implant microwire electrode arrays that can record signals as well as deliver pulses of electrical stimulation to neurons in the same region in multiple rat brains.
“An individual monkey brain does not have the capacity to move the arm in three dimensions, says Nicolelis, so each monkey learned to manipulate the arm within a certain ‘subspace’ of the virtual 3-D space.”
In the case of the rat experiment, they then physically linked pairs of rat brains via a “brain-to-brain interface” (see “Rats Communicate Through Brain Chips”). Once groups of three or four rats were interconnected, the researchers delivered prescribed electrical pulses to individual rats, portions of the group, or the whole group, and recorded the outputs.
The researchers tested the ability of rat brain networks to perform basic computing tasks. For example, by delivering electrical pulse patterns derived from a digital image, they recorded the electrical outputs and measured how well the network of neurons processed that image. Read the rest of this entry »
“Duke remains committed to fostering an inclusive, tolerant and welcoming campus for all of its students,” university spokesman Michael Schoenfeld said in a statement. “However, it was clear that what was conceived as an effort to unify was not having the intended effect.”
The first adhan, or call to prayer, had been scheduled to be broadcast on Jan. 16. University officials said, the Islamic chant, which includes the words “Allahu Akbar” would have been “moderately amplified” — in both English and Arabic.
“Graham said Muslims have a right to worship in America. He also said there are millions of ‘wonderful people in Islam that want to live their life and raise their children and they want to be free.’ But he also said that Islam is not a peaceful religion.”
“This is a Methodist school and the money for that chapel was given by Christian people over the years so that the student body would have a place to worship the God of the Bible,” Graham told me in a telephone interview.
“Members of the Muslim community will now gather on the quadrangle outside the Chapel, a site of frequent interfaith programs and activities.”
He had called for university donors to pull their funding – (and I suspect that had something to do with Duke’s decision.)
Instead, the prayers will be moved to outside the chapel.
“Members of the Muslim community will now gather on the quadrangle outside the Chapel, a site of frequent interfaith programs and activities,” Schoenfeld said.
The university did not say whether the Muslim call to prayer would be “moderately amplified” at the new location. Read the rest of this entry »
We have learned more about the thinking brain in the last 10-15 years than in all of previous human history.
“There may come a day when the Internet might be replaced by a Brain-net, in which emotions, sensations, memories and thoughts are sent over the Internet.”
Michio Kaku writes: More than a billion people were amazed this summer when a 29-year-old paraplegic man from Brazil raised his right leg and kicked a soccer ball to ceremonially begin the World Cup. The sight of a paralyzed person whose brain directly controlled a robotic exoskeleton (designed at Duke University) was thrilling.
[Check out Michio Kaku’s book “The Future of the Mind: The Scientific Quest to Understand, Enhance, and Empower the Mind” at Amazon.com]
We are now entering the golden age of neuroscience. We have learned more about the thinking brain in the last 10-15 years than in all of previous human history.
A blizzard of the new technologies using advanced physics—resulting in scans and tests we know as fMRI, EEG, PET, DBS, CAT, TCM and TES—have allowed scientists to observe thoughts as they ricochet like a pong ball inside the living brain, and then begin the process of deciphering these thoughts using powerful computers. Read the rest of this entry »
University of Washington researcher Rajesh Rao, left, plays a computer game with his mind. Across campus, researcher Andrea Stocco, right, wears a magnetic stimulation coil over the left motor cortex region of his brain. Stocco’s right index finger moved involuntarily to hit the “fire” button as part of the first human brain-to-brain interface demonstration. Images: Univ. of WashingtonUsing electrical brain recordings and a form of magnetic stimulation, Rajesh Rao sent a brain signal to Andrea Stocco on the other side of the UW campus, causing Stocco’s finger to move on a keyboard.
While researchers at Duke Univ. have demonstrated brain-to-brain communication between two rats, and Harvard researchers have demonstrated it between a human and a rat, Rao and Stocco believe this is the first demonstration of human-to-human brain interfacing.
“The Internet was a way to connect computers, and now it can be a way to connect brains,” Stocco said. “We want to take the knowledge of a brain and transmit it directly from brain to brain.”
The researchers captured the full demonstration on video recorded in both labs. The following version has been edited for length.