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Brain-to-brain interface allows transmission of tactile and motor information between rats
Date:2/28/2013

y, such a system is not limited to a pair of brains, but instead could include a network of brains, or "brain-net." Researchers at Duke and at the ELS-IINN are now working on experiments to link multiple animals cooperatively to solve more complex behavioral tasks.

"We cannot predict what kinds of emergent properties would appear when animals begin interacting as part of a brain-net. In theory, you could imagine that a combination of brains could provide solutions that individual brains cannot achieve by themselves," continued Nicolelis. Such a connection might even mean that one animal would incorporate another's sense of "self," he said.

"In fact, our studies of the sensory cortex of the decoder rats in these experiments showed that the decoder's brain began to represent in its tactile cortex not only its own whiskers, but the encoder rat's whiskers, too. We detected cortical neurons that responded to both sets of whiskers, which means that the rat created a second representation of a second body on top of its own." Basic studies of such adaptations could lead to a new field that Nicolelis calls the "neurophysiology of social interaction."

Such complex experiments will be enabled by the laboratory's ability to record brain signals from almost 2,000 brain cells at once. The researchers hope to record the electrical activity produced simultaneously by 10-30,000 cortical neurons in the next five years.

Such massive brain recordings will enable more precise control of motor neuroprosthesessuch as those being developed by the Walk Again Projectto restore motor control to paralyzed people, Nicolelis said.

The Walk Again Project recently received a $20 million grant from FINEP, a Brazilian research funding agency, to allow the development of the first brain-controlled whole-body exoskeleton aimed at restoring mobility in severely paralyzed patients. A first demonstration of this technology is scheduled for the opening game
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Contact: Duke Medicine News
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Duke University Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert  

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