Researchers Create ‘Rat Cyborgs’ That People Control With Their Minds

By Bill Andrews | February 14, 2019 3:43 pm
Rat cyborg robot mind control

(Credit: Azimuth_A/shutterstock)

I’ll just come right out and say it: Scientists have created human-controlled rat cyborgs.

Lest you think this is some media sensationalism at work, here’s the actual title of the paper under discussion, which came out last week in Scientific Reports: “Human Mind Control of Rat Cyborg’s Continuous Locomotion with Wireless Brain-to-Brain Interface.” That pretty much says it all.

Some of this tech — such as brain-brain interfaces (BBIs) and rat cyborgs — is nothing new in science, so in a way this just a small step in an already existing race. But, put another way: people are controlling rat cyborgs with their freaking brains now. Wirelessly.

The Main Brain

Here’s the deal.

BBIs are themselves based on stringing together BMIs, or brain-machine interfaces. These already exist, and present a cool way for people to control prosthetics or other devices. Apparently they can also function the other way around — instead of a brain controlling a device, a machine can alter brain patterns or “import tactile information back to the brain,” as the study’s authors put it. So BMIs allow for mechanically “controlling” others’ brains.

In effect, it works like this: A human has movement-related thoughts, which an EEG picks up and transfers to a computer. The computer translates that signal into “control instructions,” which get wirelessly beamed into the stimulator on the back of the rat and then into its brain via electrodes (which is, by the way, now a rat cyborg because of its cybernetic parts). The rat then responds to the instructions by actually doing them. All this tech exists, but for some reason “very few previous studies have explored BBIs across different brains,” the authors write — so they fixed that with a very real, actual experiment that involved humans wirelessly controlling rat cyborgs through mazes.

I can’t stress enough how real this is, or how often the authors used the phrase “rat cyborg” in their peer-reviewed scientific paper.

Testing Rat Cyborgs

The researchers, all from Zhejiang University in China, explain that they wanted a system that worked nearly instantaneously and with high accuracy, due to a living creatures’ “agility and self-consciousness.” And, apparently, that’s what they got.

“With this interface, our manipulators were able to mind control a rat cyborg to smoothly complete maze navigation tasks,” the authors write, almost gloating.

The human controller was non-invasively hooked into the BBI, where thinking about moving their left or right arms would command the rat to turn in those directions, and blinking corresponded to forward. The study used six rat cyborgs, well-trained and previously prepared for such control. The final part of the system involved a camera showing the rat’s real-time reactions, allowing the human controller to get instant visual feedback.

At first the maze was simple, a multi-armed set of tubes that met in the middle, like the spokes of a wheel. The idea was to use it to practice commanding the rat through turns. Then the mazes got more complex, with tight turns, multiple levels and a specific prescribed path. The rat cyborgs handled well, overall, with improved control over time; two of the rats apparently performed flawlessly.

(For their parts, the human controllers were subject to fatigue and easily distracted, but over time they improved, too, cultivating what the writers call “a tacit understanding between the human and the rat cyborg.”)

Nothing To Worry About…

I know what you’re thinking (a chilling phrase in light of the subject matter): Is this for real?

“The Zhang paper IS for real, and I don’t see anything unplausible about it,” says University of Washington brain researcher Andrea Stocco, who wasn’t involved with the work. “The results … are impressive but believable.”

As for next steps, the study’s authors discuss ways to improve the technology, but notably don’t suggest any particular applications, perhaps leaving those as an exercise to the reader. They do call the whole idea of BBI transmitting information between two entities “intriguingly possible,” and add, “furthermore, information flow will be made bidirectional and communicative between two human individuals.”

Stocco suggests the tech could be involved in improved augmented reality systems, remote control of an animal through tight spaces — or even an expert surgeon remotely controlling a doctor’s hands in a delicate operation. Ultimately, he says, “the holy grail of BBI would be sharing rich content that cannot be better expressed in words, such as emotions and feelings. We are still so far from that, but, of course, that would be the dream.”

For his part, Harvard lab director Seung-Schik Yoo (also unaffiliated with the paper) imagines such technology could benefit people even more directly. “I personally want to use brain stimulation [for its] neurotherapeutic applications,” he says. “I am one of the believers who think that brain stimulators will be part of our daily lives as ‘neuroprostheses’ some day.

“Of course, we have to fear the misuse of the technology and prevent it from happening,” he adds. “Many new technologies are a double-edged sword.”

But Stocco isn’t too worried. “We are very, very far from any application of these technologies on humans against their will,” he says. And anyway, it’s not like we need BBI to manipulate people even now. “Scandals like Cambridge Analytica remind us that social media feeds and advertisement campaigns are just the good old-fashioned way to achieve the same goals (making other people do something they wouldn’t do otherwise).” So really, this research is just bringing up some of the same old ethical dilemmas we should already be used to dealing with.

Only, you know, featuring rat cyborgs.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Mind & Brain, Technology, top posts
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  • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/EquivPrinFail.pdf Uncle Al

    Researchers Create ‘Rat Cyborgs’ That People Control With Their Minds” Invented by Karl Marx when he ignored technology and consumerism while postulating a perfect future. Or…”BEN!

    We are very, very far from any application” Weaponize, then wait a day for production engineering to kick in. “such as emotions and feelings” The Left end of the Bell Curve

    www(.)youtube(.)com/watch?v=yvfAtIJbatg
    … squealing.

    • OWilson

      “Invented by Karl Marx when he ignored technology and consumerism while postulating a perfect future”

      An early form of mind control, it was institutionalized by Lenin Stalin and Pravda, adopted by Hermann Georing, massaged into general acceptance by Madison Avenue, and now brought to stunning efficiency by Academia, MSM and Social Media.

      No invasive surgery required, no gulags, and no messy infringements of International Geneva Conventions! :)

      CNN – “You give us five minutes, we’ll give you five things you MUST know for the day!”

      Microsoft – Announces NEWSGUARD feature, complete with blacklist!

      And an unlimited supply of willing young subjects!

      They even make a profit on the equipment they they use to diseminate this stuff.

      They should at least give away their IPhones for free!

      Obama, with his Obamaphones at least had the right idea! :)

      Poor Karl never had the opportunity to connect with the whole world instantly.

      • Kamran Rowshandel

        Marx wanted basically for an Illuminati to be able to command everyone what to do.

        It’s on par with Leviticus’ atrociousness, and inability to avoid being demonized

        Since it doesn’t incentivize the use of the most efficient method to do work, OR EVEN TRY

        It cannot be stated that Marx wanted perfection

        Hey, what’s this turd reading on the calorimeter? Oh, you don’t have it in your hands? BETTER HURRY BEFORE I FLUSH IT.

        PS: Everybody, yes I just flushed it. Importantly though, Marxists disregard how hard their system makes it to come up with solutions to problems that would be obvious if we had a king. Besides, at least other species that have kings are alive. Marxism is practically a ‘gateway propaganda’. When trying to make things fair, you don’t mold a solution out of privilege–the solution is a way for {potential} holders of privilege to behave with each other; it’s built on top of our inborn civility as beings, something we share with other elements of our environment, most obviously the other genetic sequences, to whom it is impossible to be a stranger to.

        Al is a fascist and should be punished. He’s exceeded the limit for being horrible as a part of his environment locally, nationally, and galactically——- I’m just saying….. He deserves that

      • Mike Richardson

        Interesting that in your unhinged political rant of a reply to Uncle Al, you didn’t criticize him for referencing the same movie I mentioned. Double standards are a funny thing, huh? 😏

        • OWilson

          I don’t have a problem with an occasional movie cite, Mikey!

          But you quote your pop culture icons consistently.

          Your Colbert show lists some 30 writers.

          Sounds like just another talking head, to me! :)

          Beavis and Butthead?

          • Mike Richardson

            “Beavis and Butthead?” Yes, I have referenced the dimwitted duo in response to you before, particularly since you oftentimes seem to share their views on the importance of learning — “Uh-huh-huh, knowledge is stupid.” Your comments regarding the value of the highly successful NASA rover Opportunity, or any Earth observing satellite that could provide information conflicting with your denial of climate science, for example. Not exactly an embrace of the values of discovery, eh?

          • OWilson

            “Uh-huh-huh, knowledge is stupid.”

            There you go again! :)

            Now who said that, Mikey, and why should anybody care about such a dumb source”?

          • Mike Richardson

            You have expressed that very sentiment yourself, in a much less condensed form, on so many occasions. Such as the examples I gave above, which you pointedly ignored. Quite alright. I would be less surprised to see self-reflection from the poor rats described in the article, than from you at such a late stage. :)

          • OWilson

            Cite for your “quote”? :)

          • Mike Richardson

            As someone who reportedly taught English, you should understand the difference between paraphrasing and quotes. Makes me a bit skeptical of that, to be honest. Regardless, here are a few examples:

            “Partially restores my faith in climate science. Partially! :)
            But, and there’s always a but. :)” — from D-Brief article “Researchers Discover China and India are Literally Making Earth Greener.” You of course reject science indicating significant increase in global temperatures, melting ice caps, or rising sea levels, accepting only cherry-picked data to confirm your biases. Also:

            “After $billions spent over years, the main achievement listed here is further proof that Mars had water at some time in its existance[sic].” — your response to the article in the Crux, “NASA’s Opportunity Rover is Dead…” about the highly successful NASA Opportunity rover mission to Mars.

            “Ah, predictions from back filling models!” — your response to research showing how melting polar ice can affect sea level rise and ocean currents, in the D-Brief article “Melting Ice Sheets Will Really Mess With a Fundamental Ocean Current.

            And those are just a few examples of your overall reaction to any research or science articles which you consider unimportant or in conflict with your ideological bias. Perhaps not “knowledge is stupid” verbatim, but a very similar attitude, particular with knowledge you don’t personally value.

          • OWilson

            Thought so. :)

            No cite, just another of your deluded “inferences”, and a word salad in dissembling to justify using your intentionally and deliberately misrepresentative quotes!

            Have a nice day, Mikey! :)

          • Mike Richardson

            I always do. I’m sure you will, too, as soon as you go find some more science articles to dispute and disparage. 😉

          • OWilson

            The word is “challenge”, Mikey. As in challenging the conventional wisdom.

            I have full confidence that good science and good political philosophy will survive the challenges of this retired anonymous poster!

            Provided of course that other opinions are still allowed to be heard, in a free and open society.

            In that regard, kudos to the blogs on Discover (with one minor exception) for allowing the free flow of uncensored ideas!

    • Kamran Rowshandel

      Marx wanted basically for an Illuminati to be able to command everyone what to do.

      It’s on par with Leviticus’ atrociousness, and inability to avoid being demonized

      Since it doesn’t incentivize the use of the most efficient method to do work, OR EVEN TRY

      It cannot be stated that Marx wanted perfection

      Hey, what’s this turd reading on the calorimeter? Oh, you don’t have it in your hands? BETTER HURRY BEFORE I FLUSH IT.

      PS: Everybody, yes I just flushed it. Importantly though, Marxists disregard how hard their system makes it to come up with solutions to problems that would be obvious if we had a king. Besides, at least other species that have kings are alive. Marxism is practically a ‘gateway propaganda’. When trying to make things fair, you don’t mold a solution out of privilege–the solution is a way for {potential} holders of privilege to behave with each other; it’s built on top of our inborn civility as beings, something we share with other elements of our environment, most obviously the other genetic sequences, to whom it is impossible to be a stranger to.

      Al is a fascist and should be punished. He’s exceeded the limit for being horrible as a part of his environment locally, nationally, and galactically——- I’m just saying….. He deserves that

    • Ryan Snaca AniloHectycle

      Why imbed when you can go “wifi”.

  • http://www.michaeledits.com Michael LaRocca, Editor

    I only wish they’d done it when I lived in Zhejiang. I’d have loved to edit that paper.

    • Blargh

      “I simultaneously think this discovery is completely useless, but also am angry that it could potentially be used in the military” – White people

  • Mike Richardson

    I guess none of these folks ever saw the movie “Ben.”

    • OWilson

      True enough.

      Educated folks don’t get their scientific and political views from the Science Fiction, Hollywood movies, Colbert, Beavis and Butthead stuff, and the other sources you endlessly cite here.

      I’d recommend a couple of good books on history, and the growth of physical science!

      You might widen your audience! :)

      You’re never too old to learn, Mikey!

      • Mike Richardson

        I’ve a a Master’s degree in history, and accept scientifically proven concepts like climate change. I also enjoy some popular culture, have an imagination, and possess a sense of humor that doesn’t endlessly involve denigrating others different from me. I can understand why those things might confuse you, as you seem set on proving that some folks are indeed too old to learn new things. I wish you the best of luck in trying to change that about yourself! :)

        • OWilson

          We’re all impressed, Mikey!

          Have a nice day! :)

          • Mike Richardson

            I don’t care if you and all the voices in your head are impressed or not. I’m just making sure your deliberate mischaracterization of me as someone who hasn’t picked up a history or science book is corrected for the record. Perhaps you should follow your own advice and acquire a little more knowledge on these subjects yourself before commenting.

          • OWilson

            No thanks, Mikey!

            I’ll leave your Hollywood fantasy pop culture to your “imagination”, and those that fnd it educational! :)

          • Mike Richardson

            So you won’t take your own advice and learn more about history and science? Hardly surprising, and it actually just reinforces my comments about your approach to knowledge. Thanks.

          • OWilson

            I never stop learning, Mikey!

            From Aristotle, Plato, Tacitus, Galileo, Newton, Einstein.

            Not from your most quoted sources, Hollywood air headed, jesters, mimes, crooners and TV cartoon characters! :)

            You are on the public record, Mike!

          • Mike Richardson

            All good sources for understanding the bases for Western philosophy and history, as well as astronomy and physics. Also, all quite dead. Do you accept new knowledge from people who are alive, such as the majority of climate researchers? The evidence from your postings (you are on record, too, Wilson!) suggests otherwise, given your typical contrarian responses.

          • OWilson

            No, I don’t “accept” the conventional climate wisdom from people who are “alive”, as long as the living likes of Pielke, Lindzen, Curry, Spencer, Christy, Bengtsson, Shaviv, et al are skeptical.

            As Einstein (not your Butthead and Beaver, Colbert, Hollywood movies, or Al Gore) said:

            “It only takes one!” :)

            I’ve never believed in “settled science” by “consensus”!

          • Mike Richardson

            I know, Wilson. I know. You pick and choose the science you wish to believe, based on whether or not you think it might support your personal ideology. Thank you for confirming that for anyone else reading this exchange. Much obliged. :)

          • OWilson

            Anytime, Mikey! :)

  • http://www.gelecon.de Holger Emmrich, LL.M.

    Why do people that? omG 🧐

  • stalked562

    Sonic and microwave attacks are not for Embassies only.
    Corrupt Intel Agencies are using Military Grade RF Weapons on innocent civilians domestically.
    DEW’s maim ,torture and slow kill covertly .
    MKULTRA CONTINUES.

  • Todd Graves

    A brutal race.

    • OWilson

      In context, we are just the latest in a long line of great apes, subject to the impersonal and amoral natural survival aspirations of the fittest.

      But what is unique about this latest branch of hominids, is the organizational ability for tribal leaders to emerge and thrive, by promoting and institutionalizing inter-tribal hate.

      Hate!

      This does not occur in any other species, as far as we are aware!

  • Gayle

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