io9 reports: [edited]
Researchers have created an electronic link between the brains of two rats, and demonstrated that signals from the mind of one can help the second solve basic puzzles in real time — even when those animals are separated by thousands of miles.
Here's how it works. An 'encoder' rat in Natal, Brazil, trained in a specific behavioral task, presses a lever in its cage it knows will earn it a reward. A brain implant records activity from the rat's motor cortex and converts it into an electrical signal that is delivered via neural link to the brain implant of a second 'decoder' rat.
Rat number two is in North Carolina. The second rat's motor cortex processes the signal from rat number one and — despite being unfamiliar with the behavioral task the first rat has been conditioned to perform — uses that information to press the same lever.
Untrained decoder rats receiving input from a trained encoder partner only chose the correct lever around two-thirds of the time. That's definitely better than random odds, but still a far cry from the 95% accuracy of the encoder rats.
"These experiments demonstrated the ability to establish a sophisticated, direct communication linkage between rat brains," he said in a statement, "so basically, we are creating an organic computer that solves a puzzle."