Development of human brain-to-animal brain Interface
for the real-time control of animal behavior without prior training
24 May 2017
Scientific Reports 7, 2340
Manipulation of Rat Movement via Nigrostriatal Stimulation Controlled by Human Visually Evoked Potentials
Hallym University: Hae-Yong Park, Hwan-Gon Lee, Hyung-Cheul Shin
POSTECH: Bonkon Koo, Seungjin Choi
Yonsei University: Chin Su Koh, Jin Woo Chang,
Corresponding author: Hyung-Cheul Shin
A joint research among Hallym University, Yonsei University and POSTECH
Animal movements are controlled by neural signals from brain and continuously change according to various sensory information entering from the external world. The joint research team have developed a real-time brain-to-brain interface (BBI) technology to manipulate animal behavior, without any previous training, by transferring signals stemming from visually evoked human brain signals. Research result was published on the Scientific Report, a sister journal of the Nature, in May 24th.
They showed that the remotely-controlled rats successfully navigated a T-maze via contralateral turning behaviour induced by electrical stimulation of the nigrostriatal (NS) pathway. This electrical stimulation was delivered by a brain- computer interface (BCI) based on the human controller’s steady-state visually evoked potentials (SSVEPs). This system allowed human participants to manipulate rat movement with an average success rate of 82.2% and at an average rat speed of approximately 1.9?m/min.
This is the first study to demonstrate the use of NS stimulation for developing a highly stable ratbot that does not require previous training, and is the first instance of a training-free BBI for rat navigation. This BBI technology is a fusion of two technologies. One is the BCI technology and the other is the computer to brain interface (CBI) technology. In BCI technology, brain signals are recorded and converted to command signals to control machines. In CBI technology, information on the computer are delivered to certain area of the brain to alter neural activities in a brain circuit.
The first BBI was introduced by Vieira et al. (Scientific reports 3, doi:10.1038/srep01319, 2013). This system transmitted the brain signals of an ‘encoder’ rat to match the cortical signals of the ‘decoder’ rat, which allowed the rats to share meaningful behavioural information. Subsequently, Yoo et al. (PloS one 8, e60410, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0060410, 2013) showed the feasibility of using transcranial-focused ultrasound for BBI by inducing tail movement in anaesthetized rats based on mental commands from human. Recently, Rao et al. (PloS one 9, e111332, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0111332, 2014) and Grau et al. (PLoS One 9, e105225, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0105225, 2014) reported human-to-human connections using non-invasive BBI, respectively.
All previous BBI researches between human and animal or humans required anaesthesia or training, respectively. In this reason, previous BBI systems have a difficulty to be used in practice for the communication between humans and untrained animals. However, current BBI system enabled human participants to manipulate rat locomotion with relative ease. Thus, animal's volition is substituted by human's intention. Importantly, the system achieved this without needing to train the rats or the participants. This is the first system to enable people to successfully communicate with untrained animals in this manner.
Current and future trends of the BBI technology is the development of non-invasive BBI system using ultrasound, light or magnetic energies. This BBI technology will be used to cure various kinds of brain diseases without any brain surgery. Another important aspect of the BBI technology in the future is to transfer a set of information or knowledge between brains, aiming to realize the scenes shown on the movie Avatar. This may be called a brain upload or a brain download. This sort of future BBI technology will be eventually fused with stem cell biotechnology to accomplish the eternal life of an individual person, the human eternal aspiration. However, the vastly complex brain system may not allow the realization of that aspiration.
At the moment, the results of the current BBI study will facilitate the development of borderless communication between human and untrained animals, which could not only improve the understanding of animals in humans, but also allow untrained animals to more effectively provide humans with information obtained with their superior perception.