Miguel Nicolelis, a Duke University Medical Center neurobiologist and his team have created a “Brainet,” a network of interconnected brains with four rats. With microscopic electrodes implanted directly in their brains, each rodent exchanged information with the others in real-time to create an organic computing device. Collectively, they solved computational problems like image processing, storing and recalling information, and predicting if it’s going to rain.
Nicolelis explored the idea of a “superbrain” and experimented with a pack of rats. They worked in pairs, so when one set solved a problem, their brain activity was relayed to the other pair with electrical stimulation. After receiving the electrical clues to solve the problem, the second pair found it easier to complete the task. The interconnected rodent group learned to recognize brain activity patterns to complete the tasks and synchronized their activities when given a particular stimulus. In one particular test, they received electrical stimulation that was linked to an increase/decrease in the air temperature and pressure. Based on those cuts, the group was able to predict the chance of rain with 41% accuracy. The demo concluded that the rats achieved better and faster results than they would individually.
One of Nicolelis’ most fascinating observations was that the rodents figured out a way to divide their workload among the group so one wasn’t bogged down with more work than the other. The demo serves a tool to study social behaviors among animals, but it also reveals the potential of organic computers for human brains. This computing device could eventually help stroke and epilepsy patients, according to the scientist, but for now, his team is working on finding a noninvasive way to create a human Brainet.