Friday, June 22, 2007

Remote Control Rats

Now that Sheep Farm is physically open, I am working on a series of posts regarding bio-tech issues. This is the first.

Recently a live rat has been turned into a robot, controlled by virtual touch. To accomplish this, researchers from the State University of New York Downstate Medical Center and Drexel University have combined stimulation of the rat's reward area and touch areas of its brain through implanted electronic sensors. By sending information from a remote control the rat can be guided through a maze. Basically the rat's brain receives commands to turn right or left and the reward center is stimulated as it complies. It is denied the reward stimulation if it makes the wrong choice. The rat soon learns to do what is asked of it.

It is worth reading the article, Virtual Touch Controls Rats, by Kimberly Patch, published on-line by Technology Research News.

This is pretty new research and new ethical guidelines may need be developed. It is of concern that the reward center is controlled by artrificial stimulation. Can this overcome the animal's real need for food or water, while it performs its duties as a robot?

We should be asking questions now. A couple that come to my mind are: Can this technology be used to guide humans? If so, are there military applications?

How do you feel about this?

1 comment:

Laurie said...

I think this is a fascinating and under-reported advancement in science. The implications for human beings are clearly dangerous (for those of us who still believe in "quaint" notions like free will). Most theoretical advances in science have, sooner or later, been followed by attempts to apply them to solve human problems. If this advance is applied to human beings, we will lose our very nature.