Cortical Neuroprosthesis Merges Visible and Invisible Light Without Impairing Native Sensory Function.
Adult rats equipped with a sensory prosthesis, which transduced infrared (IR) signals into electrical signals delivered to somatosensory cortex (S1), took approximately 4 d to learn a four-choice IR discrimination task. Here, we show that when such IR signals are projected to the primary visual cortex (V1), rats that are pretrained in a visual-discrimination task typically learn the same IR discrimination task on their first day of training. However, without prior training on a visual discrimination task, the learning rates for S1- and V1-implanted animals converged, suggesting there is no intrinsic difference in learning rate between the two areas. We also discovered that animals were able to integrate IR information into the ongoing visual processing stream in V1, performing a visual-IR integration task in which they had to combine IR and visual information. Furthermore, when the IR prosthesis was implanted in S1, rats showed no impairment in their ability to use their whiskers to perform a tactile discrimination task. Instead, in some rats, this ability was actually enhanced. Cumulatively, these findings suggest that cortical sensory neuroprostheses can rapidly augment the representational scope of primary sensory areas, integrating novel sources of information into ongoing processing while incurring minimal loss of native function.
Thomson, EE; Zea, I; Windham, W; Thenaisie, Y; Walker, C; Pedowitz, J; França, W; Graneiro, AL; Nicolelis, MAL
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