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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.
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.
“We could [make the rats] sensitive to any physical energy,” said Prof. Nicolelis. “It could be magnetic fields, radio waves, or ultrasound.
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