Scientists Give Rat an Artificial Cerebellum

| by Michael Allen

Researchers at Tel Aviv University in Israel say that they have successfully wired a functional computer chip to a rat's brain, which can restore some motor functions in rats with brain damage.

The cerebellum is an area of the brain responsible for learning and coordinating motor activity. It receives input from the spinal cord.

“It’s proof of concept that we can record information from the brain, analyze it in a way similar to the biological network, and return it to the brain,” researcher Matti Mintz told New Scientist.

Unlike cochlear implants or prosthetic limbs, which can only communicate with the nervous system in one direction, the artificial cerebellum can receive sensory information from the body, interpret it, and respond with a signal to a different region of the brain.

The artificial cerebellum allowed the scientists to condition a brain-damaged rat to blink whenever it heard a tone. Eyeblink conditioning is a type of Pavlovian conditioning.

Scientists say that without the artificial cerebellum, the rat could not learn the motor reflex.