At the risk of sounding like a pitch for a bad Syfy Channel remake of the “Planet of the Apes,” researchers at Duke University announced they have successfully wired monkey brains together in order to create what they are calling “organic computers” or, “brainets.” Researcher, Miguel Nicolelis, who apparently takes the phrase “two heads are better than one” too literally, led the team of neurobiologist who created the monkey network in order to see if two brains could collaborate in order to complete tasks more efficiently.
The study was conducted by implanting electrodes into the brains of several monkeys. By picking up the signals from several hundred electrodes, researchers were able to monitor about 3,000 neurons. Monkeys were then interconnected to a computer which displayed a digital monkey arm on the screen. The monkeys were then assigned the task of directing the digital monkey arm to a target. If successful, the monkeys were rewarded with juice.
Additional studies were conducted using four rats as well. These rats were directly wired to each other so that neural information could be passed from one rat to another when one of those rats responded to a stimulus. According to researchers, these ratborgs were at times able to perform certain tasks better than a single, un-wired rat would.
Nicolelis states that the purpose of the study was to explore the possibility of accelerating rehab for those suffering from neurological damage. Because of the long and difficult process these patients have to go through in order to relearn basic motor skills, Nicolelis believes that if a healthy brain could be wired to a recovering patient, then the healthy brain could essentially communicate with the damaged brain and teach it how to regain these motor skills.