Chip makes rats move, may help humans too

October 4th, 2011 - 2:04 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Oct 4 (IANS) A chip that helped injured rats move can open the way to providing human amputees with fully functioning robotic limbs, new research says.

The chip, mimicking a robotic cerebellum and implanted into the skull of a rodent with brain damage, successfully restored its capacity for movement, Tel Aviv University said.

The cerebellum is responsible for coordinating movement.

When wired to the brain, “robo-cerebellum” receives, interprets, and transmits sensory information from the brain stem, facilitating communication between the brain and the body, according to a Tel Aviv statement.

To test this robotic interface between body and brain, the researchers taught a brain-damaged rat to blink whenever they sounded a particular tone. The rat could only perform the behaviour when its robotic cerebellum was functional.

“It’s proof of the concept that we can record information from the brain, analyze it in a way similar to the biological network, and then return it to the brain,” says psychology professor Matti Mintz.

The chip is designed to mimic natural neuronal activity.

In the future, this robo-cerebellum could lead to electronic implants that replace damaged tissues in the human brain.

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