Prof Matti Mintz and colleagues at Tel Aviv University have implanted a chip into the head of a brain-damaged rat in order to restore the animal’s capacity for movement.
Designed to mimic natural neuronal activity, the so-called robo-cerebellum receives, interprets and transmits sensory information from the brain stem, facilitating communication between the brain and the body, allowing the rat to function normally again.
To test this robotic interface between body and brain, the researchers taught a brain-damaged rat to blink whenever it heard a particular tone.
When the rat’s artificial cerebellum was disabled, it was unable to co-ordinate this behaviour.
‘It’s a proof of the concept that we can record information from the brain, analyse it in a way similar to the biological network and then return it to the brain,’ said Mintz, who recently presented his research at the Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence meeting in Cambridge.
The robo-cerebellum could lead to electronic implants that replace damaged tissues in the human brain and give amputees full control over robotic limbs.