The rats had no reduction in their ability to “feel” things as a result
US researchers have effectively given laboratory rats a “sixth sense” using an implant in their brains.
An experimental device allowed the rats to “touch” infrared light – which is normally invisible to them.
The team at Duke University fitted the rats with an infrared detector wired up to microscopic electrodes that were implanted in the part of their brains that processes tactile information.
The results of the study were published in Nature Communications journal.
The researchers say that, in theory at least, a human with a damaged visual cortex might be able to regain sight through a device implanted in another part of the brain.
Lead author Miguel Nicolelis said this was the first time a brain-machine interface has augmented a sense in adult animals.
The experiment also shows that a new sensory input can be interpreted by a region of the brain that normally does something else (without having to “hijack” the function of that brain region).
“We could create devices sensitive to any physical energy,” said Prof Nicolelis, from the Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina.
“It could be magnetic fields, radio waves, or ultrasound. We chose infrared initially because it didn’t interfere with our electrophysiological recordings.” ….
“This is the first paper in which a neuroprosthetic device was used to augment function – literally enabling a normal animal to acquire a sixth sense.” …
Read more: BBC
Due to the nature of our brain’s generalized connections, I think we could have many different kinds of senses than we do now, and our brains would adapt to incorporate them.