Web edition: February 21, 2013
A sensor wired to a portion of the rat brain that normally processes the sense of touch enabled the animal to detect a form of light it cannot ordinarily see, scientists report. The new research underscores how adaptable the brain is. It also offers hope that someday people who have suffered severe brain damage or who have gone blind can regain some lost function.
Researchers mounted infrared sensors onto the scalps of rats. Using tiny wires, they connected the detectors to that part of the rat brain that normally interprets signals coming from the whiskers. The connection allowed the rats to sense the infrared light that was visible only to the scalp sensors.