Rats and Telekinesis: Rats can control digital objects with brains

Rats and Telekinesis: Rats can control digital objects with brains

In the realm of science fiction, we often encounter fantastical creatures endowed with supernatural powers. From wizards conjuring spells to Jedi Knights wielding the Force, the power of imagination is boundless. But what if I told you that, in the real world, even the humble rat can perform telekinesis, lifting digital cubes and dropping them near a target? However, these rats don't possess mystical abilities but instead use the power of their imagination. This telekinetic feat, recently described in the November 3 issue of Science, not only amazes researchers but also offers intriguing insights into how the brain creates new scenarios and recalls past memories.

Dr. Albert Lee, a neuroscientist, and his colleagues embarked on a fascinating journey into the world of mental time travel. They sought to understand how our brains can revisit memories from the past and leap forward to envision future scenarios. This cognitive phenomenon, often referred to as "mental time travel," is what makes our inner mental life rich and intriguing. Their research was conducted at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Janelia Research Campus in Ashburn, Virginia.

To delve deeper into these complex questions, the researchers began with a seemingly simpler query: "Can you be in one place and think about another place?" Their chosen subjects? Rats. These rodents were tasked with moving on a spherical treadmill within a 3D virtual world projected onto a surrounding screen. As the rats explored this virtual environment, electrodes recorded neural signals from their hippocampi, brain structures renowned for their involvement in processing complex spatial information.

The next challenge was to investigate whether rats could employ their imagination to navigate this virtual world. The researchers trained the rats to mentally manipulate a virtual cube onto a serpentine column using only their brain activity patterns within the hippocampus. Success in this task would reward the rats with water, and their physical movements on the treadmill became irrelevant. With dedicated training, the rats proved their mental prowess. By activating specific cell patterns in their hippocampus, these rodents could hold the virtual cube near the winding column for several seconds or even mentally transport themselves to the serpentine column.

The results of this experiment provide strong evidence that rats can harness their imagination to execute novel, artificial tasks. According to neuroscientist Daoyun Ji of Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, who was not involved in the study, this ability is not limited to rats alone. He suggests that humans may also employ their hippocampal memories when engaging in imaginative tasks.

The hippocampus, a seahorse-shaped structure located deep within the human brain, is a highly complex and mysterious region. Previous research, including that of Dr. Mayank Mehta at UCLA, has shown that hippocampal cells are influenced by various factors beyond abstract spatial locations. Understanding this complexity is crucial because it opens doors to a plethora of exciting possibilities. As Dr. Mehta points out, a deeper scientific understanding of the brain region responsible for these telekinetic feats could potentially aid in diagnosing and treating memory disorders, offering hope to those affected by conditions such as Alzheimer's disease.

In the world of neurobiology, these findings not only expand our understanding of the brain but also hint at the potential for more advanced applications. Devices that integrate neural signals from the hippocampus may one day allow for more abstract pathways. This technology could potentially empower individuals to control computers and robotic limbs with their thoughts, just as the rats controlled a virtual world. Dr. Lee suggests that humans, with their larger repertoire and the concepts stored in their brains, might be able to exert even more significant control over their hippocampi for extended periods.

In the end, the rats and their telekinetic abilities serve as a testament to the remarkable capabilities of the human mind. While we may not be able to lift X-wings from swamps like Yoda or wield lightsabers like Jedi, the power of imagination and the complexities of our brain continue to astound and inspire. As scientists unlock the mysteries of the mind, we find ourselves one step closer to harnessing the full potential of our most powerful asset—our imagination.


C. Lai et al. Volitional activation of remote place representations with a hippocampal brain-machine interface. Science.Vol. 382, November 3, 2023, p. 566. doi:10.1126/science.adh5206. 

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1 comment

Wow, this blog is mind-blowing! The concept of rats and telekinesis is utterly fascinating. It’s incredible how science and technology continue to push the boundaries of what we thought was possible. The idea that rats can be connected to telekinesis experiments opens up a world of possibilities for understanding the connection between the mind and the physical world.

I’m excited to see where this research leads and what it could mean for our understanding of the brain and its potential. It’s a testament to the relentless curiosity of scientists and the ever-expanding frontiers of human knowledge. Can’t wait to read more about this topic!


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