V!NCENT writes with news that researchers at Tel Aviv University have replaced a synaptic microcircuit inside a rat's cerebellum with a fully synthetic version, while maintaining proper functioning. The targeted area of the rat's brain involved its ability to blink its eyes in response to particular stimuli. "To test the chip, they anesthetized a rat and disabled its cerebellum before hooking up their synthetic version. They then tried to teach the anesthetized animal a conditioned motor reflex — a blink — by combining an auditory tone with a puff of air on the eye, until the animal blinked on hearing the tone alone. They first tried this without the chip connected, and found the rat was unable to learn the motor reflex. But once the artificial cerebellum was connected, the rat behaved as a normal animal would, learning to connect the sound with the need to blink." Study author Matti Mintz said of the work, "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."
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