It seems that week can’t go by without scientists somewhere in the world pushing the boundaries of medical procedures that might have been consider within the realm of science fiction even a couple of years ago.
In this case scientists from the Tel Aviv University in Israel have been able to create an artificial cerebellum and the replace a mouse’s cerebellum with the artificial one. As the scientists pointed out the cerebellum is actually the easiest part of the brain to replicate electronically due to it being used primarily as part of our motor control, as well as it having a fairly simple neuronal structure.
The team, led by Professor of Psychobiology Matti Mintz, started by analyzing the sensory input signals that came into a rat’s biological cerebellum from its brain stem, and the response signals that it put out in return. They were then able to replicate this signal-processing/transmitting function on a chip, which could be mounted outside the rat’s skull and wired into its brain.
They then anesthetized the rat, disabled its own cerebellum, and mounted the chip on its head. Next, they tried to teach the still-anesthetized rat a conditioned motor reflex – they subjected the rat’s eye to a puff of air accompanied by an audible tone, causing it to blink, with the idea that the rat would learn to blink its eye even when the tone was produced with no accompanying puff. While it could not learn this response when the chip was at first not connected to its brain, it was able to do so once the chip was wired in.
The chip was facilitating the same sort of response that the cerebellum would ordinarily handle.
The idea behind this kind of research is to be able to restore or improve the brain functions of people who have suffered a stroke.