Researchers give animals the ability to feel infrared light; humans next

By John Hewitt on February 14, 2013 at 12:07 pm

Researchers from Duke University have given a rat the ability to feel infrared light. Outfitted with with a head-mounted sensor and stimulating electrodes placed in the touch area of its cortex, the rat learned to navigate to a reward when it was tipped off with the otherwise invisible light. The Duke lab is well known for inventing some of the first brain-computer interfaces (BCIs), particularly those designs that have later led to successful use in humans. To understand the method to this new rodent madness, we need to understand a bit about Miguel Nicolelis, the man behind all of this.

Anyone who has read Miguel Nicolelis’ book, Beyond Boundaries, knows that he has two loves — his Brazilian hinterland, and soccer. In a grand and self-prescribed coup de maître, Nicolelis has announced that the opening kickoff to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil will be done by a young paraplegic wearing his full body exoskeleton under total control of the wearer’s mind. The outstanding problem in achieving this new urgent feat is how to provide the wearer with feedback from exoskeletal position and velocity sensors. Nicolelis realized that applying these hard metrics in a tactile fashion to the wearer’s body is not going to cut it if you are a paraplegic — if you can’t feel your body, you are probably not going to feel stimulation. Even for a normal person, or one with some remaining limb, the peripheral nerves and their natural proprioceptive (stretch and position) sensors do not have anywhere near the same capacity as the central nervous system for reorganizing and or optimally representing new kinds of information.

Read more: Researchers give animals the ability to feel infrared light; humans next | ExtremeTech.

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