‘Robo-rat’ controlled by brain electrodes

May 2, 2002 | Source: New Scientist

Researchers at the State University of New York in New York City have turned a living rat into a radio-controlled automaton, using three electrodes placed in the animal’s brain. The animal can be remotely steered over an obstacle course, making it twist, turn and jump on demand.
The research will help pinpoint biochemical changes in the brain and which brain regions are involved in processing different behaviors.

“The researchers implanted one of the electrodes into the medial forebrain bundle (MFB), the part of the brain responsible for sensing reward. They placed the other two in parts of the somatosensory cortical area that receive stimulation from the left and right whiskers. Finally, a radio receiver tucked inside a rat-sized backpack was plugged into an interface in the rat’s skull.

“The rats were trained to learn that they would be rewarded with continuous zaps to the MFB when they moved forwards, or when they turned according to an appropriate stimulation of the left or right whisker.”

Journal reference: Nature (vol 417, p 37)