A new study has found that hooking up of a geomagnetic compass and micro-stimulator to the brain of a blind rat can help it in gaining vision.
According to the researchers, the attachment of these devices to the brain of rats can help the animals to spontaneously learn how to use new information for navigation purposes through a maze in a nearly similar fashion as normally sighted rats.
The researchers are optimistic that the new findings can help them in developing a similar kind of neuroprosthesis which might help the blind humans walk freely without any assistance.
The head-mountable geomagnetic sensor device enables the researchers to successfully connect a digital compass to two tungsten microelectrodes for the stimulation of the brain’s visual cortex. The device, which is very light in weight, further allowed the scientists to turn the stimulation of brain up or down. The device also included a rechargeable battery.
Following attachment, the sensor automatically identified the direction of the animal’s head and generated electrical stimulation pulses that further signaled the direction that the animals were facing.
The researchers then trained the blind rats for seeking food pellets in a T-shaped or a more complex maze. Within tens of trials, the blind rats learned using the geomagnetic information in order to solve the mazes. In fact, the navigation strategies as well as the performance levels of the blind rats were very much similar to those of their normally sighted counterparts. The researchers said that the device helped the animals to restore their allocentric senses.
Concluding the study, the researchers said that the findings indicate towards a simple application of attaching the geomagnetic sensors to the canes that are used by some blind people for navigation purposes.
The researchers are expecting that the findings may help humans in expanding their senses with the attachment of artificial sensors capable of detecting geomagnetic input, ultrasound waves, ultraviolet radiation, and lots more.
The findings of the study were published in the Cell Press journal Current Biology.