Friday, September 30, 2011

Cyborg Rats, Robo-Brains, And Classical Conditioning

To test the function of the artificial cerebellum, the team used a tried-and-true technique known as classical conditioning, pioneered by Ivan Pavlov in dogs. In the technique, a rat with a functioning brain was exposed to a puff of air in its eye at the same time an auditory tone was played. With enough repetition, a healthy rat (with an intact brain) would come to flinch its eye any time the tone alone was played, just by associating the noise with the blink-inducing air puff. With its cerebellum non-operational, a rat couldn't learn this very simple behavior — something rats usually pick up in no time in a lab setting. But when hooked into the external synthetic cerebellum, the same rat soon learned to blink every time the tone was played, meaning that the chip had effectively replaced an entire, vital part of its brain. more

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