This article came out about a month before Neuron News began, so hopefully you will be able to forgive it’s delay. Although news about the “Ratbot” has already spanned the journalism phase space, only at Neuron News will you also receive reasonable commentary!
Dr. Sanjiv Talwar and colleagues at the State University of New York, successfully implanted a neuro-remote control to guide a rat through an obstacle course. With a radio-receiver backpack mounted on the little rodent, commands from a researcher’s nearby laptop stimulated areas in the brain associated with the whisker sensation.
Zap one of the whiskers and the rat feels like it bumped into something. Subsequently changing its course to avoid the “virtual wall”, the rat receives a second zap directed to some “feel good” part of its brain.
“Ooo yeah, that was nice. Maybe there’s another one of those over… here!”
This neural control and feedback mechanism allowed scientists to guide the rat to do things it normally would not like to do. For example, the robot rat didn’t hesitate to walk across well-lighted, open spaces.
The anticipation is that these rodents would be used as real-life guinea pigs to maneuver through earthquake-damaged areas, or wind though a mind field, until it… well… stumbles across one.
Although this report is everywhere, check out these UK versions, along with the original report in Nature:
Talwar, S. K. et al. Rat navigation guided by remote control.. Nature, 417, 37 – 38, (2002). [Read (Subscription required)]