February 14, 2013 19:43
Researchers at Duke University in North Carolina have provided rat sensors that transmit excitation to the somatosensory cortex, and taught them to perceive infrared light. Work accepted for publication in the journal Nature Communications, and its summary can be found on the website or in the researchers NewScientist.
In the experiment, the animals were on a head mounted infrared detectors. Their data is passed to several neurons in the brain (S1), is responsible for processing tactile information from vibrissae (hard "whiskers") rodents.
The rats were placed on a circular platform, the edges of which there were three devices with infrared lights and reward. To find reward rodents needed to feel which of the bulbs at the moment comes. This make it more difficult the closer the devices are located to each other.
Animals quickly learned to perceive which of the bulbs light up, even if the angle between them was only 30 degrees. In this case, the rats still continued to use the whiskers. According to the researchers, this suggests the possibility of a fast switching of the brain S1 mode of touch into the "IR flair" and back.
The work of researchers is of great importance for the development of brain-computer interfaces for people without vision. She points out that it is possible to use not only the visual cortex, but other areas of the brain.