Prosthetic compass wired into brain substitutes for sight
Yuji Ikegayaand Hiroaki Norimoto/University of Tokyo
With a compass-microchip prosthetic wired into their brains, blind rats can learn to navigate complex mazes to find food. What’s more, they can do it nearly as well as rats that still have their sight, researchers from Japan report April 20 in Current Biology. Success using the prosthetic demonstrates the flexibility of the brain to comprehend a completely new sense, they say. The result may lead to improved therapies for human blindness and to the enhancement of human senses beyond the standard five.
“These rats are learning and really learning fast,” says neurophysiologist Peter König of Osnabrück University in Germany. He adds that it’s pretty cool that the animals can learn to use the signals from the geomagnetic device in a meaningful way.
Study coauthor Yuji Ikegaya of the University of Tokyo says the rats may not perceive the meaning of direction as