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Would it be possible to electrically trigger the brain to do certain things? For example, if you shock a muscle in just the right place, it contracts. Could a similar practice be done on a brain to trigger it to do something?

For the sake of simplicity, let’s ignore the fact that it would be virtually impossible to get electrical current to certain parts of the brain, I would like to know if the electrical current would actually do something.

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  • $\begingroup$ MIchael Crichton's The Terminal Man comes to mind as relevant. $\endgroup$ – StephenG Nov 1 '20 at 2:22
  • $\begingroup$ this question could be improves with just a tiny amount of research. we already use electrical signals to trigger the brain, there is a famous study on the pleasure center of the brain that showed you can put a wire in the pleasure center of a rats brain and and it will will press the the activation laver for the current until it starves. $\endgroup$ – John Nov 1 '20 at 4:40
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Using electricity or magnetic fields to adjust brain functioning is an actively used medical procedure although many of its uses are experimental. Mostly, it is used for neurotherapy and treating diseases like depression and possibly other issues like PTSD or anxiety. Unfortunately, right know this technology is very "inexact". It's a rather "blunt" instrument and can't be used to make people smarter or download knowledge. For further reading, check out these Wikipedia pages:

Here is a rat with experimental electrical brain stimulation system implanted: Rat with electrode in its brain

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    $\begingroup$ That’s very interesting! It’s funny how rats and other animals have very similar dna to humans so I can’t wait to find out what new discoveries we are yet to find that could possibly effect our lives in the future. Thanks for your answer. $\endgroup$ – Joe Wood Oct 31 '20 at 23:16
  • $\begingroup$ "blunt instrument" Yes. From what I've read, targetted electrical stimulation can make a person feel pleasure or some other very "general" emotions, but not specific thoughts like "I should repair the dishwasher now", nor specific knowledge. Frankly, I think the possibilities are a lot more frightening than promising. Sure, it would be cool if you could learn differential calculus or how to speak French or whatever with a few minutes of electrical stimulation rather than years of schooling. ... $\endgroup$ – Jay Nov 1 '20 at 5:39
  • $\begingroup$ ... But if such technology was really possible, I'd be seriously concerned that the people in power would use it to "teach" the populace that the ruling party is infallible and must be obeyed without question. $\endgroup$ – Jay Nov 1 '20 at 5:40
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, the technology to do that will undoubtedly one day exist. Right now the state of the art in neuroscience is we have a pretty good idea of what happens where, but basically no clue how any of it actually is implemented. Given a few centuries or millenia of development? If we haven't blown ourselves to Kingdom Come yet, we'll probably have long ago worked it out. It's a question of how wisely we choose to use the technology, not whether we can successfully develop it. $\endgroup$ – Ton Day Nov 1 '20 at 6:15
  • $\begingroup$ Let's not forget this recent paper about implant-free approach. $\endgroup$ – kojiro Nov 1 '20 at 15:14
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"Rat robots"

The Journal of Neuroscience describes an experiment in which the brains of live rats were electrically stimulated; this caused the rats to turn left or turn right at the scientist's command.

The rats were still able to avoid obstacles on their own while stimulated, indicating that this was a bit more about controlling thought, and a bit less about just controlling the body.

It was so successful that the researchers ended up calling them "rat-robots".

https://thejns.org/focus/view/journals/neurosurg-focus/49/1/article-pE11.xml

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  • $\begingroup$ Wow! That’s absolutely amazing, that’s a huge step in the right direction for this sort of technology. Could you imagine the future possibilities for this kind of discovery? It seems like not much is known at this point but moving forward do you think that ethical issues will stand in the way of this research or could this be a new age for augmentations and other devices that could connect to humans? Thanks for your input! $\endgroup$ – Joe Wood Oct 31 '20 at 23:45
  • $\begingroup$ It of course raises huge and dangerous ethical issues, but that does not necessary mean that we can't move forward. There are lots of new technologies that have ethical concerns: cloning, gene editing, human/animal hybrids, etc. The key is to have scientists and nations come to consensus about the ethicality of this, and (if it is deemed ethical) create an ethical framework before allowing this for humans. $\endgroup$ – cowlinator Oct 31 '20 at 23:55

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