New Brain Implant Has Horrible Effect On Mice

( What will they think of next?

Scientists at Northwestern University found a way to get anti-social mice to make friends by embedding neural implants in their skulls. When the implants were activated, the mice became friendly with one another, engaging socially. Then when researches turned the implants off, the socializing stopped.

The team of scientists are using a newly developed wireless “optogenetic neural implant” that enable researchers to trigger areas of the brain remotely and observe how the mice behave without direct interference from the researchers.

Prior to the development of this wireless technology, researchers were never sure whether the interactions and behaviors they observed were entirely natural or, instead, were influenced or obstructed by the presence of external connections.

The experiment was designed by Northwestern neurobiologist Yevgenia Kozorovitskiy who explained the problems faced by researchers prior to the development of this wireless device.

“The fibers would break or the animals would become entangled,” Kozorovitskiy told Science Daily. “In order to ask more complex questions about animal behavior in realistic environments, we needed this innovative wireless technology. It’s tremendous to get away from the tethers.”

The device measures only a half a millimeter thick and rests on the outer surface of the skull just beneath the fur and skin of the animal. It is connected to a filament with LEDs on the tip that extend into the brain, and uses the same technology that is used for making electronic payments from a smartphone.

Contrary to what it seems, the purpose of this study was not to turn the mice into loveable Disney characters.

Kozorovitskiy and her team believe this wireless optogenetic technology could have benefits far beyond studying social behavior in animals. It could lead to tremendous medical advancements as well.

“It sounds like sci-fi, but it’s an incredibly useful technique,” said Kozorovitskiy. “Optogenetics could someday soon be used to fix blindness or reverse paralysis.”