Researchers at the University of Tokyo have created a strange cyborg rat
that they hope will help them develop a brain-machine interface (BMI) for controlling motorized wheelchairs. The so-called RatCar is a motorized vehicle that suspends a rat below it and is hooked up via electrodes inserted in the rodent's motor cortex. The rats were then trained to move the cart simply by thinking about moving. Of the eight rats in the study, it appears that six adapted to the new method of locomotion, although one of the researchers, Osamu Fukayama, said it was unclear just how much the rat was able to control the device. Since the cart was being dragged around, and there were some unexpected results in neural measurements, it was difficult to determine the rats' intentions.
Researchers are still hopeful, though, that the experiment will lead to a breakthrough in BMI
technology that will one day allow paralyzed patients to control motorized wheelchairs with nothing more than the power of their thoughts.