Niagara Gazette

Web Extra

March 5, 2013

Can eyes see outside of the head?

(Continued)

PITTSBURGH —

Finally, it was time to put the cyclops to the test. Using an underwater arena rigged with blue and red LEDs and electric shock, scientists ran through an exhaustive array of controls and variables. Interestingly, the tadpoles with no eyes at all could still react to LED changes, revealing that they may have other ways of sensing light. However, they proved woefully inadequate at avoiding shock, showing whatever information they were getting was ultimately flawed or unusable. On the other end of the spectrum were the control tadpoles that quickly learned to avoid the shocks through the scientists' regimen of aversive conditioning.

As for the main event? Amazingly, a statistically significant portion of the transplanted one-eyes could not only detect LED changes, but they showed learning behavior when confronted with electric shock. Though eyes have been placed on or near rat brains in previous studies with success, this marked the first time a vertebrate eye has been able to send visual information to the brain without a direct connection — and from as far away as the other end of the organism.

Obviously, enormous questions remain. For instance, how does the brain know information coming up the spine from the tail is visual? It should have no idea what that knobby bit of posterior flesh is blinking about — and yet it seems to take the information in stride. The paper suggests perhaps different types of data are somehow marked, not altogether different from the way we demarcate files and commands in a computer.

Ahead lies everything from better computer brain interfaces to bioengineered organ systems. If we can understand the limits of the brain's plasticity (the ability to change and adapt from experience), we might be able to one day create cybernetic devices that don't just do what we program, but discover on their own what is required.

On the other hand, we do seem to be getting dangerously close to creating the eyeball-y beast from "Pan's Labrynth."

Jason Bittel serves up science for picky eaters on his website, BittelMeThis.com. He lives in Pittsburgh.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Web Extra
  • Gojira Japanese fans speak on the evolution of 'Godzilla'

    Japanese fans want it known: The radiation-breathing, skyscraper-stomping monster they call "Gojira" was born right here in Japan, 60 years ago.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • Bryan Yes! WWE's Daniel Bryan catches suspected burglar

    A former WWE champion known as Daniel Bryan chased two burglary suspects he saw exiting his Phoenix home this week and subdued one until officers arrived, investigators said.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • taylor.armerding.jpg AMERDING: Inequality crisis shot with factual problems, hypocrisy

    President Obama, various media and political liberals say inequality, of all things, is the defining issue of our times. Yet this message is delivered by multimillionaires and a president who jets from tee time to stump speech on the taxpayer's dime.
     

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • Almost half of America's obese youth don't know they're obese

    The good news is that after decades of furious growth, obesity rates finally seem to be leveling off in the U.S.. The bad news is that America's youth still appear to be dangerously unaware of the problem.

    July 27, 2014

  • Can plants hear? Study finds that vibrations prompt some to boost their defenses

    They have no specialized structure to perceive sound as we do, but a new study has found that plants can discern the sound of predators through tiny vibrations of their leaves - and beef up their defenses in response.

    July 27, 2014

  • cleaning supplies Don't judge mothers with messy homes

    I was building shelves in my garage when a neighbor girl, one of my 4-year-old daughter's friends, approached me and said, "I just saw in your house. It's pretty dirty. Norah's mommy needs to clean more."

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • Russia's war on McDonald's takes aim at the Filet-o-Fish

    Russia said earlier this week that it had no intention of answering Western sanctions by making it harder for Western companies to conduct business in Russia.
    But all bets are off, apparently, when you threaten the Russian waistline.

    July 26, 2014

  • How spy agencies keep their 'toys' from law enforcement

    A little over a decade ago, federal prosecutors used keystroke logging software to steal the encryption password of an alleged New Jersey mobster, Nicodemo Scarfo Jr., so they could get evidence from his computer to be used at his trial.

    July 26, 2014

  • Brother sues W.Va. senator over business loan

    U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin's brother claims he's owed $1.7 million that he loaned to keep a family carpet out of bankruptcy in the 1980s.

    July 26, 2014

  • NIA iPad pals art 1 120613 Has the iPad lost its swag?

    The company reported this week that sales of its sleek, pricey tablet were down 19 percent from last quarter and 9 percent year-over-year. CEO Tim Cook tried to reassure investors that Apple's new partnership with IBM to sell its devices to IBM's corporate customers will help make iPads ubiquitous in the workplace. "This isn't something that worries us," he said of the iPad sales decline. But the numbers are disappointing no matter how you spin them.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

Featured Ads
House Ads
AP Video
13 Struck by Lightning on Calif. Beach Baseball Hall of Famers Inducted Israel, Hamas Trade Fire Despite Truce in Gaza Italy's Nibali Set to Win First Tour De France Raw: Shipwrecked Concordia Completes Last Voyage Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge From Nest Raw: Massive Dust Storm Covers Phoenix 12-hour Cease-fire in Gaza Fighting Begins Raw: Bolivian Dancers Attempt to Break Record Raw: Israel, Palestine Supporters Rally in US Raw: Air Algerie Flight 5017 Wreckage Virginia Governor Tours Tornado Aftermath Judge Faces Heat Over Offer to Help Migrant Kids Kangaroo Goes Missing in Oklahoma More M17 Bodies Return, Sanctions on Russia Grow Raw: Deadly Tornado Hits Virginia Campground Ohio State Marching Band Chief Fired After Probe Raw: Big Rig Stuck in Illinois Swamp
Opinion
House Ads
Night & Day
Twitter News
Follow us on twitter
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Front page