Brace yourselves, for the inevitable science fiction universe collides with our own: mind control is no longer an idea that we fathom, but it is now a reality. At least this is what a group of researchers discovered when they bent mice to their will and made them spin in circles.
Fear not, it is not as apocalyptic as it seems, but it is a great discovery nonetheless. The now famous group of scientists did make mice run around by using a little chip implanted in their brains. It is a small LED chip that uses light to activate motor neurons and peripheral nerves so that the mouse can be “guided” to move as indicated.
It sort of resembles having a remote controlled toy car because the chip is wireless and requires a remote control that gives mice indications. And let us be honest: it is really cool, but it also demonstrates that humans can really play God, which does not usually end well.
But let us look at the bright side: this is a great contribution to neuroscientists who are working in optogenetics. Optogenetics specifically uses light to activate neurons, which is exactly what this chip does as well. So because the chip is so accessible, it is going to provide a comfortable study from now on and also remove previous experimental issues.
One of the very important issues was pointed out by Ada Poon, who works in electrical engineering at Stanford. Poon said that this new chip will allow mice to move freely during experiments, and this is big. Imagine if you were asked to participate in a social experiment while having a giant wire strapped onto your head and you were asked to “act normal”.
Research in optogenetics is very useful as it gives crucial information about neurological diseases, but these diseases also involve a good number of behavioral changes, which can be difficult to notice if scientists cannot know for sure what the mouse’s normal behavior is and how it can go to an abnormal state.
And let us not forget how uncomfortable the whole process can be: put the wires on the mouse’s head, maybe the wire falls off, go put it on again, maybe the other side of the wire got unplugged, go plug it again, so on and so forth.
With a wireless chip everything is a lot easier. The chip is implanted and then the remote does the trick. We are quite lucky that such a discovery was made because science can actually progress now. And the more and faster we learn about neurological illnesses, the higher the chances to prevent them.
Photo Credits rushfm.co.nz