Researchers at Duke University's Center for Neuroengineering have developed a brain implant that allows mice to sense otherwise invisible infrared light. The sensing occurs in the same part of the brain that processes tactile sensations, giving the creature a very tangible feeling of touch associated with the invisible light signals. The scientists claim that the technique can also be applied to magnetic fields, radio waves, and ultrasound.
Team member Eric Thomson says, "this is the first paper in which a neuroprosthetic device was used to augment function—literally enabling a normal animal to acquire a sixth sense." The group believes that this breakthrough could eventually lead to cortical neuroprostheses for humans, allowing us to "see in any region of the electromagnetic spectrum, or even magnetic fields."
Imagining what the world might look like when viewed with the ability to see magnetic fields (as this example demonstrates) not only sounds pretty psychedelic, but also offers the possibility that those empowered with such vision might be able to stumble upon new scientific experiments we have yet to even consider, given our limited perspective.
You can see a brief example of the infrared light implant in action in the video below.