The Story Of The Cat That Was Turned Into A Phone: Yes, You Read Well

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Cats are strange creatures, sometimes absurd, that we have domesticated for over 10,000 years now. Some people love them, others avoid them, in the past two Princeton researchers thought well to turn one into a living phone. Yes, it’s all true.

The idea came to Professor Ernest Glen Wever, a pioneer in audiology, who after studying experimental psychology at Harvard, UC Berkeley and then psychology at Princeton, began his bizarre

In 1929 and Ernest Wever together with his assistant Charles William Bray were studying how the ear and brain encode audio signals into nervous impulses. At the time, the scientific community agreed that the frequency of impulses in the auditory nerve was proportional to the intensity of the hearing stimulus but not the two researchers in question.

According to them, in fact, the frequency of the nervous impulse replicated exactly the frequency of the stimulus, a bit like the phone lines, so much so that it was called “phone theory.”

In order to test this theory, researchers decided to turn a cat into a phone. To do so, they sedated one and later removed a section of his skull to wrap around one of his auditory nerves an electrode. This emitted a signal that passed through a valve amplifier, a shielded cable and then reached a telephone receiver in a soundproof room about 15 meters away. Basically, Bray was talking to the cat, and Wever was getting the sound.

The experiment gave a positive result. The two researchers were able to reveal signals from the cat’s auditory nerve with absolute clarity, as if they were actually emitted by a machine. Wever later said: “The talk was very faithfully transmitted. Simple commands were easily received. In fact, if in good condition, the system has also been employed as a means of communication between the operating room and soundproofed room.”

The experiment did not end here because to make sure there was no other mechanism that could generate these signals, first they tried to limit the blood flow of the cat’s brain, which resulted in the interruption of signals, and then killed the cat discovers

In fact, shortly after the publication of the article that made them famous to the entire scientific community, it was discovered that most of their conclusions were wrong.

It was Hallowell Devis who, with a subsequent experiment, revealed to the world how the signals that Waver and Bray believed to be generated by the auditory nerve were actually produced by the cochlea, the spiral structure inside the ear.

The discovery then led André Djourno and Charles Eyries, two French inventors, to the creation of cochlear implants, tools that used a microphone to generate electrical signals that could directly stimulate the cochlear nerve. This technology allowed to bring sounds beyond the damaged and sick parts of the ear, in fact it allowed hundreds of thousands of people the possibility to hear despite some types of disability.

The death of the cat that became a phone was not vain, fortunately, but if this experiment seemed to you to be in bad taste (since maybe you also fall into the five well-defined categories of cat owners) perhaps you should take a look at the illegal experiments that

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