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This Brain Implant Gives Blind Rats a Compass-Like Sense of Direction

Published: April 2, 2015
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Source: Mother Board

The brains abilities of perception arent necessarily limited to the five traditionally recognised senses; other stimuli can help it make sense of the world. In a new study published in Current Biology, researchers in Japan found that rats could cope without one of the main sensessightwhen they were given another sense to help them navigate.

The blind rats brains were fed geomagnetic information thanks to a microstimulator implanted into their visual cortex and connected to a digital compass. This neuroprosthesis indicated when the rats head was facing north or south by emitting an electrical pulse to one of the two respective electrodes. The ability to be able to tell where your body is in space is known as the allocentric sense; its similar to what you might call your sense of direction.

Over email, first author Hiroaki Norimoto from the University of Tokyo explained that the digital compass they used is like the microchip youd find in your smartphone and that the whole device weighs only 2.5 grams.

The study went as follows: Seeing rats were placed in a maze where they had to turn either left or right to find food, depending on if they came at it from north or south. While at first their chance of choosing the right direction first time was 50 percent, they learned which way to go thanks to visual cues. Rats who had their eyelids sutured didnt learn.

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