May, 2021 - By SMI
This is the first time that a brain implant has been developed that controls social interactions in mice via a specifically designed program.
Scientists from Northwestern University developed a new brain implant that uses optogenetics to control social interactions in mice. Optogenetics refers to the utilization of light to controls neurons, which has been already modified to express the light sensitive ion channels. In this case, the scientists experimented on genetically altered mice with modified neurons (with the help of brain implant) so that the neurons were able to express a light-sensitive algae gene.
The brain implant used is a wireless device, which is 0.5 mm thick and is placed under the skin over the outer surface of the mice’s skull. Some filamentary probes fitted with LEDs are also attached to the mice protruding downwards into the brain. This helps the scientists to control the expressed light sensitive gene in the mice’s brain real-time via a near-field communication (wireless) from a nearby PC.
This research was published on May 10, 2021, in Nature Neuroscience journal. The researchers designed a set of experiments to study their normal social interactions between different groups of animals and control them. The rodents with brain implants were placed in close proximity inside an enclosure. Scientists were able to increase the frequency and duration of social interactions in the mice during their experiments and were also able to reverse these interactions by switching off the brain stimulation.
Neurobiologist Yevgenia Kozorovitskiy designed this experiment. She stated that this was the first instance of a direct evaluation of a main hypothesis in the field of neural synchrony (in social behavior). John A. Rogers, who lead the tech. department in the experiments, stated that research on socially interacting groups is currently an important as well as exciting subject in neuroscience.
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