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神经假体赋予实验鼠“触摸”红外光的能力

NEUROPROSTHESIS GIVES RATS THE ABILITY TO “TOUCH” INFRARED LIGHT

美国研究人员首次赋予了实验鼠“第六感”能力,使其能感知以前无法感知的红外光。这是脑机接口领域的一大突破。相关研究发表在近期的《自然·通讯》上。

杜克大学(Duke University)的研究人员给老鼠装上红外线探测器,让探测器与微电极相连,微电极被植入到处理触觉感应信息的大脑区域。他们首先训练老鼠主动选择光源,接着植入头发丝直径十分之一大小的微电极,然后重新放回到实验环境。一开始实验鼠会试着抓脸,显示感觉到了看不见的红外线。慢慢地它们学会主动搜索信号来源,最后成功跟踪和识别红外光源的位置。研究显示,触觉皮质获得感知红外线能力后并没有减少触觉信号的处理能力。

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Perceiving invisible light through a somatosensory cortical prosthesis

Nature Communications, 12 February 2013 | doi:10.1038/ncomms2497

Sensory neuroprostheses show great potential for alleviating major sensory deficits. It is not known, however, whether such devices can augment the subject’s normal perceptual range. Here we show that adult rats can learn to perceive otherwise invisible infrared light through a neuroprosthesis that couples the output of a head-mounted infrared sensor to their somatosensory cortex (S1) via intracortical microstimulation. Rats readily learn to use this new information source, and generate active exploratory strategies to discriminate among infrared signals in their environment. S1 neurons in these infrared-perceiving rats respond to both whisker deflection and intracortical microstimulation, suggesting that the infrared representation does not displace the original tactile representation. Hence, sensory cortical prostheses, in addition to restoring normal neurological functions, may serve to expand natural perceptual capabilities in mammals.

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