This method sends spatial information directly to the brain.
The researches goal was to restore the allocentric sense of the blind rat by simulating the visual cortex in its brain.
To do this they have constructed a tiny head-mounted sensor made of digital compass which is connected to the microsimulator by two electrodes.
Once the device is connected to the visual cortex the device detects the heads direction and sends geomagnetic signals which tell the rat which way they are facing north or south for instance.
The blind rats were trained with the device to seek food in different mazes and within few trials the rat learnt to use the information from the device to solve the mazes. The navigation strategies and the performance of the blind rats were similar to the sighted rats.
Ikegaya says: “The most remarkable point of this paper is to show the potential, or the latent ability, of the brain. That is, we demonstrated that the mammalian brain is flexible even in adulthood – enough to adaptively incorporate a novel, never-experienced, non-inherent modality into the pre-existing information sources.”
They have restored the allocentric sense of the rat.
So this can also help restore the allocentric sense of blind people.
“Perhaps you do not yet make full use of your brain. The limitation does not come from your lack of effort, but it does come from the poor sensory organs of your body. The real sensory world must be much more ‘colorful’ than what you are currently experiencing,” said Ikegaya.
The study titled “Visual Cortical Prosthesis with a Geomagnetic Compass Restores Spatial Navigation in Blind Rats” and published in the journal Current Biology.