Scientists have been able to control fly brains remotely

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2022-07-26 13:31:54

Researchers at Rice University (Texas, USA) have shown how they can “hack the brain” of fruit flies to control them remotely. WOMENThe flies will perform a specific action within a second after a command is sent to certain nerve cells inside their brain.

The team started by genetic engineering to create flies that have a certain heat-sensitive ion channel in some of their neurons. When this channel senses heat, it activates the neuron. In this case, that neuron causes the fly to spread its wings, and this is a gesture they typically use during mating.

Thermal activation comes in the form of iron oxide nanoparticles injected into the insect’s brain. When a magnetic field is turned on nearby, those particles will heat up, causing the neurons to generate heat, and the fly will adopt a wingspan posture.

To test the system, the researchers kept these particular flies in a small enclosure atop a magnetic coil and observed them with an overhead camera. And when the magnetic field is turned on, the flies will spread their wings within half a second.

The diagram illustrates how the system works.

“To study the brain or treat neurological disorders, the scientific community is looking for tools that are both extremely precise and also minimally invasive.”said Jacob Robinson, an author of the study. “Remote control of selective neural circuits using magnetic fields is somewhat of a holy grail for neurotechnology. Our work takes an important step towards that goal because it increases the speed of the remote control, bringing it closer to the natural speed of the brain.”

The team’s immediate goal is to use this type of technology to partially restore vision to patients with impaired vision, by stimulating the visual cortex. Similar techniques were used to control movement of the mouse, which could lead to better treatments for movement problems with root causes in the brain.

Scientists have hacked the fly brain to control them remotely - Photo 2.

DARPA, which is funding the project, even has other plans. For example, they wants to develop a headset that can read neural activity in one person’s brain and then record it into another brain, essentially transferring thoughts or perceptions between people.

The study was published in the journal Nature Materials.

Refer New Atlas

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