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IEEES: Researchers Using Rat-Robot Hybrid to Design Better Brain Machine Interfaces


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Researchers Using Rat-Robot Hybrid to Design Better Brain Machine Interfaces

A strange creature, half robot, half rat, has been seen scuttling across a laboratory in Japan. It's RatCar, a rat-vehicle experiment that scientists hope could lead to improved mobility for people with disabilities.

Researchers at the University of Tokyo wanted to see whether rats could control a miniature vehicle through the brain signals that move their limbs. They recently presented their project at the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society annual conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina.


"We wanted to develop a brain-machine interface system aiming for future wheelchairs that paralyzed patients can control only with thought," says Osamu Fukayama of the university's Medical Engineering and Life Science Laboratory. "RatCar is a simplified prototype to develop better electrodes, devices, and algorithms for those systems."

Unlike some brain-machine interface, or BMI, devices that rely on noninvasive EEG to detect neural activity, the RatCar works through direct contact with the brain. Other researchers have used this technique in getting rats to control robotic grippers and monkeys to control computer cursors and even advanced robot arms.

In the RatCar, tiny neural electrodes [the dark dots on the tip of the device shown on the photo, right] were implanted in the motor cortex of rat brains, and the animals were suspended under a lightweight, motorized "neuro-robotic platform" with wheels. The objective was to make the vehicle collaborate with the rats to achieve the locomotion they desire.

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amazing where science is leading us these days. between this and robotic arms, eventually we'll become cyborgs. Don't get me wrong, I love inventions like these which could essentially "re-able" those who were permanently disabled, but part of me sees this all as an inevitable trend towards robotic/biomechancial organs and limbs, and ultimately being taken down the road of immortality, or at least much longer laqsting life, as parts that once eventually died out no longer do. Like something out of a science fiction novel.

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