Jelle Atema, from Boston University and the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, wants to “take over” a shark’s brain and get it to obey commands to smell and sense what’s going on in the water around it.
Sharks can detect extremely subtle odor cues, weak magnetic fields, and probably minuscule fluctuations in water pressure, such as the turbulence left in a fish’s wake.
The research is a sequel to the rat study carried out by neuroscientists who gained radio-control over a rat by “steering” the animal with electrodes in its brain and reward it when it goes in the right direction.
Atema’s approach is different. He is trying to direct the shark by directly controlling its senses, rather than offering it a reward.
The biologist has first to understanding how sharks’ brains work.
Once he understands the nerve paths that transmit sensory signals to the brain, Atema will try to direct a shark by spraying an appealing smell, and mapping its brain as it senses the odor and turns toward it.
Then he will try to use that map to steer the shark from within its own brain — without the need for an external smell, or a reward.
The commands might be transmitted via a backpack strapped on to the shark as it swims through the ocean.
Some worry that, once researchers gain control over sharks, they will move on to humans. But Atema said he doesn’t believe ‘”anyone is even remotely thinking that way. That’s what we have a society for, to prevent these excesses.”
Via bTang reBlog Boston.com