Electrodes let scientists control rodents' movements.htm

HoustonChronicle.com - Electrodes let scientists control rodents’ movements
Thought this was interesting…



HoustonChronicle.com logo


(Attachment Electrodes let scientists contr.gif is missing)

(Attachment Electrodes let scientists contr1.gif is missing)

(Attachment Electrodes let scientists contr.jpg is missing)

(Attachment Electrodes let scientists contr1.jpg is missing)

(Attachment Electrodes let scientists contr2.gif is missing)

(Attachment Electrodes let scientists contr3.gif is missing)

(Attachment Electrodes let scientists contr4.gif is missing)

(Attachment Electrodes let scientists contr5.gif is missing)

(Attachment Electrodes let scientists contr6.gif is missing)

                    Section: National

Current stories in National:

  •                    May 2, 2002, 11:58AM*

A `mazing’ development

Electrodes let scientists control rodents’ movements

** Washington Post**



                            A rat maneuvers along a railroad track using a remote-controlled micro stimulator.                         Scientists for the first time have managed to remotely direct the movements of rats by using implanted electrodes to control their behavior -- in effect transforming a living animal into a robot.
                    The technique has potentially important implications for activities ranging from land-mine detection to earthquake recovery to spying to the emerging field of "neural prostheses" -- using electronics to bridge nervous system gaps caused by spinal injury, stroke or other physical infirmities.

                    "It's really just conditioning behavior," said physiologist John Chapin, of the State University of New York's Downstate Medical Center, noting that training animals to do human bidding is as old as teaching dogs to fetch. "But it's different in that you can do it all with remote control," he added. "In theory, you could guide the animal anywhere."



                            A rat is given a command to turn right using a remote-controlled micro stimulator as he climbs a tree.                         In fact, after implanting electrodes and training a "roborat" for eight to 10 days in a figure-eight-shaped maze, the Chapin-led team can steer it through any three-dimensional route. It can induce the animal to climb ladders, descend ramps, walk a pipe or navigate uneven terrain. The rat will even climb trees or wander a brightly lit room -- alien behaviors for the untrained.
                    "I really like the results," said Northwestern University physiologist Sandro Mussa-Ivaldi. "People have been doing conditioning with reflex behaviors for a long time, but this is the first time where you have control of a whole complex animal."

                    Chapin said the research, reported Wednesday in the journal Nature, was inspired by his own and many others' efforts to use electronics to help the handicapped bridge the gap between what their brains want to do and what their damaged bodies are unable to do.

                    Chapin and others have demonstrated in earlier research that rats could be trained to retrieve rewards by operating a robotic arm with neural motor impulses captured by electrodes.

                    But Chapin wanted to do the same thing with sensory impulses: "Imagine a paralyzed person grasping a glass of water and bringing it to his mouth," Chapin said. "But he can't feel the glass when he grasps it, so now we have to work on the sensory side. The rat is the first experiment. Can it discriminate between one stimulus and another?"


Graphic: Remote-controlled rats

                    The Chapin team implanted three electrodes in the rats' brains. One was placed in a "generic" pleasure center that records satisfaction whenever needs -- food, water or warmth -- are satisfied. The others were implanted to stimulate the whisker bundles on either side of the rat's nose.
                    By triggering one of the whisker implants and then stimulating the reward center, the researchers were able to make the rat turn in one direction or the other and move forward.

                    After up to 10 days of training, the rat can navigate practically any landscape, wearing a receiver and a powerpack on its back and being steered by a technician issuing commands from a laptop up to 550 yards away, Chapin said.

                    The rat thus becomes a living robot, controlled remotely by a human handler but able to go anywhere a rat can go. And its supple anatomy gives it a huge and -- at least for now -- insurmountable advantage over any mechanical robot, which can be confounded by a pair of shoes lying on a carpet.

                    Camera-equipped rats may have a future as land-mine detectors, or as couriers or scouts searching for human victims trapped in collapsed buildings or mine shafts, Chapin said.

                    They could also be used as the "rat on the floor" equivalent of the "fly on the wall," providing a real-time ability to eavesdrop on sensitive conversations taking place behind closed doors.

                    The implications of the experiment for neural prostheses are far less clear.

                    Also, Chapin noted, "we're trying to avoid using bigger animals," because of the "big brother" ethical issues involved in developing a technique that in many cases overrides an animal's natural instincts.

                    "The rat looks normal and isn't feeling any pain, because he's getting rewards for doing the right thing," Chapin said.

                    Return to top

Search Today's Ads
The best deals
are at Ad Search.
Click here and save!

                            <img alt="Pasadena Town Square" border="0" name="pos360" src="cid:004d01c1f24a%24ed8fa3c0%24841988cf@sdollars" usemap="#pos360">
                            Pasadena Strawberry Festival.

                            <img alt="Click to buy tickets or visit HoustonSymphony.org" border="0" name="pos361" src="cid:004f01c1f24a%24ed8fa3c0%24841988cf@sdollars" usemap="#pos361">
                            Missa Solemnis And Mozart

                            <img alt=" Da Camera of Houston" border="0" name="pos362" src="cid:005101c1f24a%24ed8fa3c0%24841988cf@sdollars" usemap="#pos362">
                            Season Finale features Dvorak Chamber works.

                            <img alt="" border="0" name="pos363" src="cid:005301c1f24a%24ed8fa3c0%24841988cf@sdollars" usemap="#pos363">
                            Cinco de Mayo Saturday, May 4th