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Lab Rats Given "Sixth Sense" 78

puddingebola writes "Researchers have given lab rats the ability to sense infrared light through a brain implant. From the article, 'They taught the rats to choose the active light source by poking their noses into a port to receive a sip of water as a reward. They then implanted the microelectrodes, each about a tenth the diameter of a human hair, into the animals' brains. These electrodes were attached to the infrared detectors. The scientists then returned the animals to the test chamber. At first, the rats scratched at their faces, indicating that they were interpreting the lights as touch. But after a month, the animals learned to associate the signal in their brains with the infrared source.'"
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Lab Rats Given "Sixth Sense"

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  • by roboticon ( 2715841 ) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @10:18PM (#42905161)
    Interestingly the electrodes were implanted in the "tactile information" processor, so the infrared light is interpreted as touch. That would seem to mean that in "tracking" the source of the signal, the rats meander until the infrared light hits their eyes, and then head toward it as the strength of the touch signal increases.

    TFA says "a new sensory input can be interpreted by a region of the brain that normally does something else," but isn't the input just being "converted" into the sense of touch by activating that region of the brain?
  • It is not 6 (Score:4, Interesting)

    by markdavis ( 642305 ) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @10:25PM (#42905219)

    Why is that stupid term "Sixth Sense" still used?

    1) Sight
    2) Hearing
    3) Touch
    4) Taste
    5) Smell
    6) Balance
    7) Temperature
    and there are several others. So it is not a "Sixth Sense"

  • Flowers for (Score:4, Interesting)

    by c0lo ( 1497653 ) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @11:03PM (#42905525)

    Nicodemus and becomes...intelligent.

    Algernon (was the first).

  • Re:It is not 6 (Score:4, Interesting)

    by markdavis ( 642305 ) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @11:16PM (#42905597)

    >I used to think this as well, but balance is derived from touch (it's the movement of hair in your inner ear) and temperature would be as well.

    I totally disagree. Balance is a separate function that can be had or lost, separately from touch (pressure). And temperature really has nothing to do with touch. If you were going to go that route, then smell and taste are the same, since they are both chemical detection receptors. And hearing and balance and touch are the same because they ALL involve moment detection.

    All these things come from nerve sensations, but that doesn't make them the same sense.

  • by AK Marc ( 707885 ) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @11:18PM (#42905617)
    If you receive conflicting information, your brain will file it conveniently. "Touch" brain activated by light can be re-wired to be forwarded to vision. That was part of the result. They initially acted at first like it was "felt" as a touch. Later, they acted as if it was "seen".
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 15, 2013 @12:02AM (#42905987)

    "Figure 2A: Learning curve for IR-only trials. Graph shows percentage of correct trials as a function of session number (130 sessions in four rats). Black circles/lines indicate mean/s.e.m. for blocks of three sessions."

    And there are 15 datapoints if you look at the chart. So there should be 4*3*15=180 sessions, yet there are only 130 total. That makes it seem like they failed to collect data on 27% of trials for some reason. What is the explanation for this? I mean stuff happens so its fine to be missing some sessions, but I can't find an explanation in any obvious place and it seems like an obvious thing to notice.

    Has Nature once again failed to publish a report it is possible for the reader to reasonably interpret?

The only possible interpretation of any research whatever in the `social sciences' is: some do, some don't. -- Ernest Rutherford