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Scientists Create Sixth Sense Vision In Infrared

#1
Not sure if this is really a sixth sense, might be a bit of a liberty taken by the press as infrared is still part of the light spectrum and presumably comes under the sense of vision. I would have thought an entirely new sense would be something outside of the realm of vision, touch, smell, taste, hearing etc, an entirely new way of detecting things.

Here's the article from the Torygraph:

Scientists create 'sixth sense' brain implant to detect infrared light - Telegraph


A brain implant which could allow humans to detect invisible infrared light has been developed by scientists in America.



Scientists have created a "sixth sense" by creating a brain implant through which infrared light can be detected.
Although the light could not be seen lab rats were able to detect it via electrodes in the part of the brain responsible for their sense of touch.

Similar devices have previously been used to make up for lost capabilities, for example giving paralysed patients the ability to move a cursor around the screen with their thoughts.

But the new study, by researchers from Duke University in North Carolina, is the first case in which such devices have been used to give an animal a completely new sense.

Dr Miguel Nicolelis said the advance, reported in the Nature Communications journal this week, was just a prelude to a major breakthrough on a "brain-to-brain interface" which will be announced in another paper next month.

Speaking at the annual meeting of the American Academy for the Advancement of Science in Boston on Sunday, he described the mystery work as something "no one has dreamed could be done".

The second paper is being kept secret until it is published but Dr Nicolelis's comments raise the prospect of an implant which could allow one animal's brain to interact directly with another.

In the first study, rats wore an infrared detector on their head which was connected to electrodes in the part of their brain which governs touch.

When one of three ultraviolet light sources in their cage was switched on, the rats initially began rubbing their whiskers, indicating that they felt as if they were touching the invisible light.

After a month of training, they learned to link the new sensation with the light sources and were able to find which one was switched on with 100 per cent accuracy. A monkey has since been taught to perform the same task.

The study demonstrates that a part of the brain which is designed to process one sense can interpret other types of sensory information, researchers said.

It means that in theory, someone who is blind because of damage to their visual cortex could regain their sight using an implant in another part of the brain.

Dr Nicolelis said: "What we did here was to demonstrate that we could create a new sense in rats by allowing them to "touch" infrared light that mammals cannot detect.

"The nerves were responding to both touch and infrared light at the same time. This shows that the adult brain can acquire new capabilities that have never been experienced by the animal before.

"This suggests that, in the future, you could use prosthetic devices to restore sensory modalities that have been lost, such as vision, using a different part of the brain."

The study is part of an international effort to build a whole-body suit which allows paralysed people to walk again using their brain to control the device's movement.

Infrared sensing could be built into the suit to inform the person inside about where their limbs are and to help them "feel" objects.

Dr Nicolelis and his collaborators on the project hope to unveil the "exoskeleton" at the opening ceremony of the football World Cup in Brazil in 2014.

I saw a programme the other day which suggested foxes, birds and other creatures can see the eath's magnetic field. This also brings us to another speculative question which I brought up in the AYR thread ages ago about colour - I wonder if there are other phenomena which exist and which we are unable to yet detect? The Dark Energy/Matter stuff being a possible example. It's curious to speculate what it might appear like if we were able to see it and add colour to it, would it be a more magnificent sight to behold than the universe which we can already see?

DC
 
#4
Not sure if this is really a sixth sense, might be a bit of a liberty taken by the press as infrared is still part of the light spectrum and presumably comes under the sense of vision. I would have thought an entirely new sense would be something outside of the realm of vision, touch, smell, taste, hearing etc, an entirely new way of detecting things.
It's not so much detecting things, it's representing things in our consciousness. Why do vision, hearing, taste, touch, etc take the form they do, how do they do so physically (and I don't just mean "air molecules bounce of something and some nerves get triggered! ^^") and how such conscious entities fit into our mathematical models of the Universe. How does an animal perceive electric fields at a conscious level (if they do)? What other potential "modes" of experiencing things are there?
 
#5
It appears that animals do perceive electric fields, but I'm not sure whether bees are conscious, or at least in a higher state of conscious with self awareness like humans and other advanced animals.


Flowers get an electrifying buzz out of visiting bees - life - 21 February 2013 - New Scientist

Flowers get an electrifying buzz out of visiting bees

19:00 21 February 2013 by Douglas Heaven
Plants could turn out to be one of the more chatty organisms. Recent studies have shown they can communicate with a surprising range of cues. Now it turns out they could be sending out electrical signals, too.

As they fly through the air, bees – like all insects – acquire a positive electric charge. Flowers, on the other hand, are grounded and so have a negative charge. Daniel Robert at the University of Bristol, UK, and colleagues set out to investigate whether bumblebees (Bombus terrestris) were able to make use of these signals.

To test the idea, the team created artificial flowers, filling some with sucrose and others with quinine, a substance bees don't feed on. To start with, the bees visited these flowers at random. But when a 30 volt field – typical for a 30-centimetre-tall flower – was applied to the artificial blooms containing sucrose, the team found that the bees could detect the field from a few centimetres away and visited the charged flowers 81 per cent of the time. The bees reverted to random behaviour when the electricity was switched off.

"That was the first hint that had us jumping up and down in the lab," says Robert. The result suggests the bees may use the electric field as an indicator of the presence of food, much like colour and scent do. In the absence of a charge, they forage at random.

Next, his team looked at whether the bees were influenced by the shape of a flower's electric field, which is determined by the flower's shape. By varying the shape of the field around artificial flowers that had the same charge, they showed that bees preferentially visited flowers with fields in concentric rings like a bullseye: these were visited 70 per cent of the time compared to only 30 per cent for flowers with a solid circular field.


Ruthless evolution

The researchers don't know exactly what information is contained in the flowers' electrical signals, but they speculate that flowers could evolve different shaped fields in their competition to attract pollinators. "Flowers are a ruthless expression of evolution," says Robert. "They exploit the bees."

It's likely that a flower's electric charge reinforces the cues provided by its colour and scent, says Robert, in much the same way as TV commercials use a mix of visual and aural cues to convey their message. The team showed, for example, that bees took a shorter time to distinguish two very similar shades of green when an electric cue was applied. "Electricity is part of their sensory world," says Robert.

When a bee visits a flower it transfers some of its positive charge, incrementally changing the flower's field. With repeated visits, the charge may alter significantly, which could tell other bees that the nectar supply has been diminished. "The last thing a flower wants to do is lie to a bee," says Robert. "Electricity is a way to change cues very quickly: 'I look perfect, I smell nice, but my electrics aren't quite right – come back later!'"

Of course, there may be a few cheaters out there that won't budge a millivolt when visited, he says. But both flowers and bees have limited control over their charge. "All that comes for free," says Robert. "It's just atmospheric physics." He hopes to find out whether other pollinators – including bats – also use electrical cues.

Dishonest advertising

Robert Raguso at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, agrees that the changing electric field may signal that nectar is running low. "Flower colours and scents change slowly, but nectar or pollen can be removed quickly by a pollinator, creating a situation in which the just-visited flower still advertises, dishonestly," he says. The rapid change in electric charge would cut through those out-of-date cues. "Just as the chemical marks left by bee feet can be used by subsequent bees to avoid visiting a depleted flower," he says.

Lars Chittka at Queen Mary, University of London, also thinks it is an interesting finding. He notes that an electrostatic charge can cause pollen to jump short distances from flower to bee, making it easier for the bee to pollinate – another reason bees may favour flowers with a charge.

However, Chittka points out that we cannot yet say with certainty that the bees' ability to detect an electric charge is a true sixth sense. It may be that when a bee hovers over a flower it simply feels the static charge making its hairs bend, in the same way that hairs on our arm bend towards a charged balloon.

If, however, bees do have a true electrical sense, they will join the ranks of certain fish and amphibians. They would be the first animal found to detect electrical fields in the air. "It's previously only been seen in animals in soggy environments," says Chittka.

Journal reference: Science, DOI: 10.1126/science.1230883
 
#6
It's not so much detecting things, it's representing things in our consciousness. Why do vision, hearing, taste, touch, etc take the form they do, how do they do so physically (and I don't just mean "air molecules bounce of something and some nerves get triggered! ^^") and how such conscious entities fit into our mathematical models of the Universe. How does an animal perceive electric fields at a conscious level (if they do)? What other potential "modes" of experiencing things are there?


The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes--and ships--and sealing-wax--
Of cabbages--and kings--
And why the sea is boiling hot--
And whether pigs have wings."
 
#7
[/B]
The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Indeed, my tusky friend, but there are other dedicated forums for some of these issues:
"Of shoes--" - Clothing and Equipment or some girly section in Gossip.
"and ships--" - The Serious Bit or Tanks, Planes & Ships
"and sealing-wax--" - again, Clothing and Equipment

"Of cabbages--" - depends whether you mean army caterers or humans cooking them ...
"and kings--
" history or current affairs
"And why the sea is boiling hot--" yep, right forum ... probably local volcanic action or a runaway reactor :twisted:
"And whether pigs have wings." ah, one of my favourites, genetic engineering! Igor, pass me the vial of chicken wing DNA and connect up the lightning rod! :muhaha:[/QUOTE]
 
#8
Depends what you mean by "perceive" in this instance. The article gives evidence for the bees sensing the effects of electric fields, but doesn't provide evidence that they directly sense the field (like we do light, say) or indirectly detect it through another sense (eg, raising of leg hairs (which we feel as a form of touch)).

However, the use of electric fields by animals is fairly well-documented, particularly in fish but also in long-beaked echidnas (a terrestrial animal), duck-billed platypus and the guiana dolphin. Magnetoception is also recorded, covering a wider range of non-aquatic animals.

Electroreception - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Sensory systems in fish - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Magnetoception - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Some animals, particularly infantry, have a well-documented (see any police station's charge sheet) sense of Beeroception, which gives the creature the ability to detect a pub or can of lager from amazing distances. Although apparently simple, the process is actually a complex computational task; it is easy enough to explain the presence of this sense in engineers but scientists are frankly baffled by its occurrence in infantry: New Scientist, 13 Mar 11, Prof Carl S Berg - "It's an exciting area of research. Clearly the lack of white matter in green jackets or guardsmen means we have to look elsewhere. There was some speculation that there might be an underlying validity to the folk-lore that they think with their dicks, but again, the structures do not appear large enough to account for beeroception ... or anything else for that matter. It shows we have much to learn even from primitive animals such as these."

but I'm not sure whether bees are conscious, or at least in a higher state of conscious with self awareness like humans and other advanced animals.
No one's actually sure whether any other animals are "conscious". Now, I'm pretty sure that many animals are (definitely dogs!) but given that we don't know what consciousness is or how it is generated, we can't be technically sure ... but we've been through this point many times, so I don't suppose I need dwell on the subject.
 
#9
Bee brains do contain a little model of the bee and where it's been that the bee uses to orientated herself and motivates her dance. Or so I read once. So they are certainly self aware albeit on a bee level.

Their sixth sense is an ability to see the polarisation of light, they use this and their bodywork to navigate.

Hives certainly have a personality, I've heard of aggressive hives being calmed down by swapping for a new queen. No linkeys, sorry.

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#11
Bee brains do contain a little model of the bee and where it's been that the bee uses to orientated herself and motivates her dance. Or so I read once. So they are certainly self aware albeit on a bee level.

Their sixth sense is an ability to see the polarisation of light, they use this and their bodywork to navigate.

Hives certainly have a personality, I've heard of aggressive hives being calmed down by swapping for a new queen. No linkeys, sorry.
I'm sure that's true, but I'm equally sure I could program a computer to exhibit similar levels of complex behaviour. The computer program would also contain navigational and sensory models (suited for a less complex simulated environment). However, we have no reason to suppose that the computer program would be in the least bit "conscious" or "self-aware", any more than, say, a centrifugal speed governor would be "aware" of its speed or need to open/close valves.
 

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