In a series of experiments that sound as if they came straight out of a science fiction story, neuroscientists at Duke University have “linked” the brains of rhesus macaque monkeys and in another experiment, those of four rats and had them perform simple computing tasks – even predicting the weather.

Working at Duke’s Center for Neuroengineering, the scientists implanted hundreds of microfilament arrays in the motor and somatosensory cortices of the animals’ brains to grab and transmit their brain activity using a technique called intracortical microstimulation.

In one experiment, the researchers linked the brains of four rats, fed them stimuli representing weather data such as temperature and barometric pressure, and the so-called “brainets” were able to successfully predict the possibility of rain.

In another, they used the brainets of up to three monkeys to move a virtual arm to a target on a computer screen.

The research is described in two papers published Thursday in Scientific Reports (see:; and

According to Miguel Nicolelis, M.D., Ph.D, co-director of the Center and principal investigator said this is the first demonstration of a shared brain-machine interface. Other brain-machine interfaces (BMIs) have progressed from animal studies to clinical uses such as helping people with missing limbs move prosthetic devices and other clinical applications.

Some scientists are skeptical of the value of the experiments, not least because Nicolelis has said the goal is to build an organic computing device with multiple interconnected brains. Others see value in exploring ideas even if they’re far-fetched.

Linking animal brains in this fashion could do computational tasks that machines are not particularly good at and brains are, Nicolelis argue – recognizing and generating patterns, for instance.