Horrifying! And what’s worse, they made him play Q*bert!
I do kinda feel bad for the little thing. I mean, did it WANT to go in circles, or did its body just sort of yank it there and it was like “WTF is this?! MY BODY IS MOVING OF ITS OWN VOLITION!” the whole time?
But this is also kind of incredible and science has done more twisted stuff and this is probably a better use of that thing’s life than crawling up my toilet pipe, so maybe the bit of body horror it experienced is kind of a wash?
I mean, brain surgeons can make their patients taste peanut-butter. Did they make the mouse want to walk in circles or did they just force it to turn left repeatedly by shocking it in the brain?
I’m certain that the mouse would disagree.
This is some fucked up shit, however you look at it. I mean, if it ends up leading to something amazing and awesome and life-changing, then I get why it’s happening, but it’s still fucked up.
“Optogenetic light switch” is not a phrase that I’m quite prepared to digest.
The “light switch” part goes down without difficulty, but the “optogenetic” part keeps getting stuck.
“Optogenetic” refers to the gene modification of the neurons that makes them sensitive to optical stimuli.
What’s with the machined aluminum bit in the photo? My money is on (mild) misappropriation of grant funds: one of the researchers has a Ducati – and after the experiment is over, that part will repair its transmission .
Why? It’s pretty fantastic. Somewhat rudimentary but still pretty fantastic. From the high level brain structure to the genemodding of neurons.
You can also have a remote controlled cockroach. That’s way simpler.
Because it’s cruel and unnecessary? If you have to ask I assume you completely lack empathy, or at least compassion.
Oh, I understand the term just fine. I’m just not the least bit prepared to deal with the idea of light being used to control genetically modified neurons. I’ve got this kind of stuff pegged for introduction in 2050, when I’m good and ready to shuffle off. It’s all just moving a bit too fast, you see. /codger
It’s slow. Slow as molasses in winter. Look, it’s 2015 and what we have? Lousy triggering of neurons with stupid light. The device doesn’t even run on an implanted glucose fuel cell.
Thought. If they’d use a rat, which is bigger, they could use a larger device, possibly with a truly wireless connection (low-power Bluetooth?) and have the rodent connected to Internet of Things.
Who gets to say?
Check out the related technologies in the Related Stories on the right column of the original article. Fascinating.
Optogenetic modifications are a promising alternative to direct electrode connection. Electrical connection into brain tissue is difficult and not exactly long-term stable, even if you use tricks like conductive polymer moulded around the neurons. Gene-modding existing neurons alleviates the problem as the light will go through the tissue better than electrical current, without its adverse effects. It can be also delivered to the site where it is needed with an optical fiber. The deep brain stimulation that is already helpful for Parkinson disease and other things can be significantly upgraded.
An important step in brain-computer interfaces, I’d say.
More, please. And faster.
Edit: I think it is also possible to gene-mod neurons to glow when firing. Here is a description of a zebrafish brain, with genemodded neurons that become fluorescent for a short time after firing; a sheet of laser light is then scanned through the brain to observe 3d pattern of activity in response to stimuli. Clever trick.
I can see tricks like these used for bidirectional communication with neurons; LEDs or fiber-coupled lasers for output, fluorescent response of neurons (or their own light emission) for input. If the neural stem cells that generate new neurons in brains are also modded, the neurons could replenish with the modification already in place. Could be used both for high-density communication e.g. for brain or retina implants, and for low-density for motoric neurons and haptic feedbacks for prosthetics.
Thought: could this be done as a germ-line modification, and the genes switched on only where needed using existing morphogenetic mechanisms? Have babies that are ready for a computer interface at the moment of birth or even for in utero brain surgery?
I’m sure it’s all quite fascinating, I’d encourage any human interested to take the place of the mouse.
Too early at this stage of research.
You can feel that way about the potential benefits, but at least acknowledge the (maybe justified) fucked-up-ness of it. Absolutely dismissing, or not even acknowledging, the pain it causes the animal is the kind of thing that leads to putting no weight-- whatsoever–on humane treatment of animals. This may well be a necessary cruelty, but don’t pretend there’s no cruelty here, regardless of if it can be deemed a necessary evil in this case or not.
Mice. We poison them by millions, crush them in mousetraps, sic beasts of prey at them (meow!), and then when we are about to get some scientific progress out of a handful, we are all concerned about their well-being.
Speak for yourself…
So… what? You’re saying no consideration should be afforded animals (or just rats?) regarding humane treatment because other animals are routinely killed? We may kill a lot of flies, but if I see someone pulling the wings off one for fun, that’s fucked up. We kill a lot of rats, but presumably for reasons other than fun or watching them suffer–otherwise it’s fucked up. I see someone doing what amounts to torture of one animal (yeah, just one) it needs a justification other than someone’s sick amusement and causing a creature pain is not something to take lightly even if there is justification. The issue I have here, though, isn’t that what they’re doing to the rat isn’t (potentially) defensible. It’s that concern about an animal going through what may be agony isn’t something to just be blithely dismissed or not even acknowledged, which is what you very consciously and deliberately seemed to be doing in your earlier response to someone expressing such concerns, IMO.
Excellent. One more glorious step towards the nerve stapling that governments have dreamed of for millennia.
It’s an unholy violation of a living sentience. This is precisely one of the things that should never be done, on principle.