Scientist have created the world's first radio-controlled animal by wiring a computer chip directly into the brain of a living rat. The rats, each wired with three hair-fine electrical probes to their brains, can be directed by remote control by an operator typing commands on a computer up to 500 meters (1,640 feet) away. Developed by Sanjiv Talwar at the State University of New York and colleagues, this latest discovery in machine-based mind control not only responds to a user's commands, but also transmits a sense of touch. "The animal is not only doing something -- it's feeling something," said Talwar, who also suggests the rats might be used as scouts for sniffing out hidden land mines or for search and rescue teams that look for survivors amid rubble. Unlike clunky machines, Talwar reveals that rats have the ability to travel adeptly over rough terrain and, therefore, might be more easily deployed in chaotic environments. Last year, the US Department of Agriculture adopted regulations that might someday limit such experiments if they're shown to cause unnecessary harm or stress to laboratory rats and mice. However, an amendment to the Farm Bill, now pending in Congress, would repeal these protections. Sen. Jess Helms (R-SC) inserted the amendment in February that would scuttle any protections for laboratory rodents or birds. Helms asserted the regulations would only lead to cumbersome paperwork. "Isn't it far better for the mouse to be fed and watered in a clean laboratory than to end up as a tiny bulge being digested inside an enormous snake?"
Mind control research projects is nothing new to the scientific world. In the 1960s, Yale physiologist Jose Delgado proved he could influence the mood and actions of animals through remote control. In one famous demonstration, Delgado stood, unarmed, in front of a charging bull. As the bull bore down on him, Delgado flicked a switch on a small radio transmitter that sent charges to electrodes implanted inside the bull's brain, causing the animal to immediately brake to a halt and meekly walk away. Delgado also experimented with monkeys and cats, and generated horror when he suggested the technology could be used to limit obsessive and criminal behavior in human societies. For recent press releases on the rat robot phenomenon, viewers may access the first two links listed above. The third link gives information on the status of the 2002 Farm Bill, as well as other major bills. The fourth link provides information from the US Department of Agriculture Farm Bill on use of USDA conservation programs. Finally, the last two links provide information on Jose Delgado's research and practices.