Robo Rat wired with electrodes stemming from his new robotic brain: image via wired.com How far away are we from being able to restore damaged areas of the brain that cause paralysis or other motor disorders? Closer, now that researchers at Tel Aviv University (TAU) have implanted a robot in the brain of a rat that successfully restored the his mobility.
The rat, who was unable to move normally because of brain damage, was wired with an electrode-studded computer chip that essentially replaced the motor area of the brain by picking up sensory information from the rat's body. Once interpreted, the information is sent to the brain stem, which signals the body to move. Just like a real brain works!
Professor of psychology at TAU, Matti Mintz, conducted the study and performed the implantation procedure on the rat. Proof that the robotic brain was functioning was obtained when the rat blinked his eyes after hearing a tone, as he had been trained. The rat did not blink when the artificial brain was turned off.
This news may remind you of several science fiction horror movies, but this time the story is true and it really does restore hope that this technology may sooner (rather than later) be utilized in rehabilitation for persons with neurological disorders and even in the creation of artificial limbs for amputees.
Dr. Mintz presented his work at the Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence meeting in Cambridge, UK.
sources: New Scientist, ABCNews, Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence