All those tales of human-animal telepathy and being able to control an animal with your thoughts may soon become reality, with the help of a new brain-to-brain interface (BBI) developed by Harvard scientists.

The interface was created by a team led by radiology assistant professor Seung-Schik Yoo and used entirely non-invasive techniques to enable mind communication between a human controller and a rat.

Harvard Scientists Develop Animal Mind Control

Communication may be an overstatement, but the results of the study are nonetheless impressive. The human controller was able to move a part of the rat’s body, more specifically the tail, just by thinking about it.

The Harvard team used six different pairs of human and rat subjects, with a 94% success rate and a 1.59 to 1.07 second delay between the moment when the human subject thought about moving the rat’s tail and the moment when the rat responded.

How’s it done?

The brain-to-brain interface uses an EEG device coupled with FUS (focused ultrasound) technology which eliminates the need of using surgical implants or electrodes. The EEG device was put on the human subjects, who were asked to look at a monitor set to flicker at a specific frequency.

By looking at the monitor, the human subjects’ brain formed and sent the signal “move your tail” to the rat, which was under anesthesia. The signal was then translated by a computer and sent to the rat’s brain using focused ultrasounds. The FUS beam excited the rat’s motor cortex and made it move its tail.

The system does not allow the human controller to send more complex commands and movements, but scientists are obviously hoping that this will be the next step of the process and plan to work on transmitting more complex ideas from human to rat.

This is not the first time BBI communication was used with rat subjects, as earlier this year, Duke University researchers developed an interface that allowed rats to transmit their thoughts to each other. Harvard’s system allowed only one-way communication, the rat not being able to transmit thoughts to the human. But this does not mean that it cannot be done, by combining the BBI and FUS into one unit.

The ultimate goal of the technology is obviously human to animal and human to human telepathy and mind control, concepts that would unavoidably be accompanied by huge ethical concerns.

What do you think of the Harvard brain-to-brain interface project? What would be the benefits or dangers of this sort of telepathic communication?

[Image via pathwayshealth]