Scientists at Duke University in North Carolina with special sensors have taught rats perceive infrared light. The device, which supplied animals transmit excitation to the somatosensory cortex of the brain. The work will be published in the journal Nature Communications, and its synopsis can be found in NewScientist, as well as on research.
In the experiment, the scientists fixed on the head of animals infrared detectors, the data are transmitted to several of neurons in a brain region (S1). This area is responsible for processing tactile information from the so-called hard "whiskers" or rodent whisker.
The rats were placed on a circular platform with up to three devices at the edges, which are infrared lamps and reward. To find reward, rodents must have felt, what light comes on at the moment. The complexity of the task depended on how close the devices were located to each other.
Animals have learned pretty quickly feel which of the bulbs light up, even when the angle between them was equal to only 30 degrees. Rats still continue use their whiskers. This suggests the possibility of fast switching brain area S1 to the "infrared flair" of the regime of touch and back.
Of great importance is the work of researchers to develop a computer-brain interfaces, designed for blind people. It shows that this can be used not only visual cortex, but other areas of the brain.