A group of Japanese scientists from the University of Tokyo, as part of a new study, implanted miniature digital GPS compasses into the brain of blind rats. This allowed them to navigate in space and recognize magnetic fields. After several days of practice, these implants gave blind rats the opportunity to navigate in the maze as well as sighted relatives. This experiment suggests that soon a similar type of implant can help blind people move without problems, improving their quality of life.
The new device, weighing only 2.5 g, consists of a geomagnetic compass similar to microchips installed in smartphones, and two electrodes connected to the visual cortex of rodents – these are parts of the brain that process visual information. Each time the animal turned its head within 20 degrees to the north, electrical impulses were sent by electrodes to the region of the right visual cortex. When the rodents turned their heads southward, the left visual cortex was stimulated, which gave blind rats the opportunity to build a mental map of their personal environment. And although the scientists were not able to restore the rats’ vision, they trained their ability to navigate in space.
Scientists say that very soon people will be able to expand their feelings through artificial sensors, for example, they can detect ultraviolet radiation, geomagnetic fields, ultrasonic waves and x-rays.