This is uncanny: A Tel Aviv University team lead by Professor Matti Mintz have developed a synthetic cerebellum that can receive sensory inputs from the brain, analyze them, and return information to other parts of the brain!
The device is now working in rats, and has effectively restored lost brain functions caused by damaged tissue. However, the most important thing is that this proves that brain-to-machine communication can work in a bi-directional way, with a machine getting information from the brain, analyzing it and then talking back to the brain. As Mintz puts it:
It's proof of concept that we can record information from the brain, analyse it in a way similar to the biological network, and return it to the brain.
Their experimental module returned reflex blinking to the rat. It connects to the brain to detect when the rat is hearing a beep and then gives the order to the brain to make the rat's eye to blink.
It's a very simple experiment, but as Francesco Sepulveda of the University of Essex puts it:
This demonstrates how far we have come towards creating circuitry that could one day replace damaged brain areas and even enhance the power of the healthy brain. The circuitry mimics functionality that is very basic. Nonetheless, this is an exciting step towards enormous possibilities.
I'm stunned. Video clips reconstructed from visual brain activity, faster-than-light particles, cars that smell like toast and now researchers restoring lost brain functions using electronic implants. September is becoming the craziest science month in recent history. [New Scientist]