Sensor helps blind mice navigate maze
A sensor mounted to the heads of blind rats helped the animals navigate a maze as effectively as healthy rats, according to two University of Tokyo scientists who developed the device, which uses the same digital compass found in most smartphones.
The compass was connected to a microstimulator using electrodes, and then implanted in the brains of blind mice. The compass worked with head movements of the mice to create a ‘geomagnetic signal’, which can alert mice as to which direction they're heading. Researchers hoped this digital exchange of information would help restore the rats’ “allocentric sense,” which is the ability to recognize your body position relative to your surroundings.
Within two to three days of maze training, rats with the sensors were able to find food pellets in a series of “T” shaped, and other mazes just as effectively as mice that can see. The researchers noted the ‘remarkable’ ability of the brain to adapt to new information and settings, even later in life.
They believe this device could be used as an implant on walking sticks, or as an internal implant, to help navigation or restore allocentric sense for humans who are blind.
The study is published in the journal Current Biology.