How do cats see the world? In 1999, neurobiologists Garett Stanley, Fei Li and Yang Dan were determined to find out. So they implanted a multi electrode array, which detects visual stimuli, in a cat’s brain. After that, the team used what they describe as a “linear decoding technique” to convert the signals from the stimulated cells into visual images. The result: cat vision.
First the cat was anesthetized a with sodium pentothal, then chemically paralyzed with Norcuron, and secured tightly in a surgical frame. Then the researchers attached metal posts to the whites of its eyes, and made it look at a screen that showed specific images, for example the man seen on the right. When the visual stimuli were decoded, the same images were (although blurry) visible on the computer screen.
Fun as it might be, seeing through a cat’s eyes was definitely not the most important reason the experiment was conducted. By tapping directly into the animal’s brain and retracting visual images, the scientist were able to create a “brain-computer interface” (BCI), hoping this would one day could be used in humans. And their effort has not been in vain: With the help of a brain–computer interface, it recently became possible to control artificial organs, as can be seen in this video.
Stanley GB, Li FF, & Dan Y (1999). Reconstruction of natural scenes from ensemble responses in the lateral geniculate nucleus. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience, 19 (18), 8036-42 PMID: 10479703