I’m not a huge fan of conducting weird surgical experiments on animals, but this research yielded some pretty cool results. Scientists bred tadpoles with eyes surgically implanted in their tails, aka “ectopic eyes.” Experiments using LED lights and mild electrical shocks revealed that not all tadpoles could see with their ectopic eyes. However, the ones that could see were able to do so relatively well. It is unclear how the tadpole’s brain is able to recognize the signals from the distant eyeball, but this could be the start of some extremely exciting vision research. Because of several similarities in structure, frog eyes can be used as models for human eyes. Hence, a deeper understanding of tadpole sensory and perception could be very applicable to human biology. Humans could be able to have similar ectopic organs attached to their spinal cords, thereby forgoing more dangerous brain surgeries.
I thought the link about technology being used on a quadriplegic was very interesting. A quadriplegic woman is now able to control a robot arm using only her thoughts thanks to some microelectrodes implanted in her brain. Obviously, this type of procedure is incredibly risky, but the rewards for this woman are almost beyond words. I think it’s amazing that we know enough about the brain’s “map” that scientists and doctors can do this stuff. It is becoming increasingly more likely that having engineered organs or body parts will become the norm in the future. Back on the topic of sight though, there are increasing numbers of studies showing that the brain is what “sees,” not specifically the eyes. There are devices that can transmit signals to the brain by bypassing the eyes, allowing blind people to see. For example, this device allows blind people to see by using their tongues.