Researchers at the Tel Aviv University in Israel successfully wired a functional computer chip to a rat's brain.
Matti Mintz and his colleagues have built an artificial cerebellum that can restore some motor functions in rats with brain damage. The cerebellum is an area of the brain responsible for learning and coordinating motor activity. It receives sensory input from the spinal cord.
“It’s proof of concept that we can record information from the brain, analyze it in a way similar to the biological network, and return it to the brain,” Mintz told New Scientist.
Unlike cochlear implants and prosthetic limbs, which can only communicate with the nervous system in one direction, the artificial cerebellum can receive sensory information from the body, interpret it, and respond with a signal to a different region of the brain.
The artificial cerebellum allowed the scientists to condition a brain-damaged rat to blink whenever it heard a tone.
Eyeblink conditioning is a type of Pavlovian conditioning that involves pairing an auditory or visual stimulus with an eyeblink-eliciting stimulus, such as a small puff of air to the eye. After repeatedly pairing an auditory or visual stimulus with an eyeblink-eliciting stimulus, the animal eventually learns associate the two stimuli and will blink after being presented with only the auditory or visual stimulus.
Without the artificial cerebellum, the rat could not learn the motor reflex.