Neuroprosthesis First Step to Star Trek “Vision”-Enabling Visor?

February 12th, 2013 | by Michael Keller

Another scientific development is bringing modern life closer to the future world envisioned in Star Trek.

Researchers have taken a significant step toward making an implantable machine that could restore and augment vision by bypassing the optic system and training another of the brain’s sensory processing centers to “see.”

A Duke University team has successfully fitted rats with an infrared detector whose electrodes were wired into the part of their brains that sense touch. When the neuroprosthetic device was powered up, the rats felt infrared light as if they were touching it.

The scientists who performed the study say the experiment represents the first time that a brain-machine interface has augmented an adult animal’s senses.

“The philosophy of the field of brain-machine interfaces has until now been to attempt to restore a motor function lost to lesion or damage of the central nervous system,” says Eric Thomson, first author of the study published Feb. 12 in the online journal Nature Communications. “This is the first paper in which a neuroprosthetic device was used to augment function—literally enabling a normal animal to acquire a sixth sense.”

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