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September 24, 2009 – Original Source: Danger Room, WIRED

The creation of a cyborg insect army has just taken a step closer to reality. A research team at the University of California Berkeley recently announced that it has successfully implanted electrodes into a beetle allowing scientists to control the insect’s movements in flight. “We demonstrated the remote control of insects in free flight via an implantable radioequipped miniature neural stimulating system,” the researchers reported in their new paper for Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience. ” The pronotum mounted system consisted of neural stimulators, muscular stimulators, a radio transceiver-equipped microcontroller and a microbattery.”

The research, supported by the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, is part of a broader effort, called the HI-MEMS program, which has been looking specifically at different approaches to implanting micro-mechanical systems into insects in order to control their movements.

A number of research teams working on this ambitious project have reported specific successes. For example, researchers at the University of Michigan have demonstrated implants in a flying moth, but the Berkeley scientists appear to have demonstrated an impressive degree of control over their insect’s flight; they report being able to use an implant for neural stimulation of the beetle’s brain to start, stop, and control the insect in flight. They could even command turns by stimulating the basalar muscles.

Eventually, the mind-controlled insects could be used to “serve as couriers to locations not easily accessible to humans or terrestrial robots,” they note.

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