A form of mind control using only the power of light has been developed by a team of South Korean researchers. And, the research team says, the process is fully reversible and has already been used successfully on mice in a lab setting to control both emotion and behavior.
BACKGROUND: NEURON SIGNALS AND BEHAVIOR
Signal transmission in the brain is achieved through electrical and chemical messengers passing between neurons and other types of cells. This mechanism is controlled via the release of chemical neurotransmitters that are released by those neurons to facilitate this intercellular communication.
Now, in an attempt to better understand this mechanism, as well as the potential to somehow manipulate the release of these neurotransmitters to control both emotion and behavior, a team of South Korean researchers have stumbled upon a process they say has shown success.
ANALYSIS: LET THERE BE MIND CONTROL LIGHT
Led by Director C. Justin Lee at the Center for Cognition and Sociality within the Institute for Basic Science (IBS), and professor Heo Won Do at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), the researchers developed a tool they are calling Opto-vTrap.
Opto-vTrap, the press release explains, is “a light-inducible and reversible inhibition system that can temporarily trap vesicles from being released from brain cells.”
With results published in the scientific journal Neuron, the system consists of a single light source that emits a specific wavelength of blue light. This light allows the team to turn on or off the release of these neurotransmitters, resulting in the ability to manipulate emotion and behavior at a chemical level. And, the research team notes, depending on the particular area of the brain being targeted, very specific emotions and even behaviors can be induced or inhibited, depending on the desired result.
“The research team verified the usability of Opto-vTrap in cultured cells and brain tissue slices,” the press release explains. “Furthermore, they tested the technique in live mice, which enabled them to temporarily remove fear memory from fear-conditioned animals.”
OUTLOOK: MIND CONTROL FOR THE BENEFIT OF SCIENCE?
Although the idea of controlling emotions and behaviors conjures up all sorts of nefarious ideas, the research team behind the newly discovered technique is focused on the positive benefits this will give their fellow researchers across an array of scientific disciplines.
“Since Opto-vTrap can be used in various cell types, it is expected to be helpful in various fields of brain science research,” noted professor Heo.
This, they note, could not only allow those researchers to better understand and test the brains of lab animals, but also may lead to real world treatments for people suffering from a wide range of neurological disorders.
“The usability of Opto-vTrap can extend not only to neuroscience but also to our lives,” said Director Lee.
“Opto-vTrap will contribute not only to elucidate brain circuit mapping but also epilepsy treatment, muscle spasm treatment, and skin tissue expansion technologies,” added professor Heo.
Follow and connect with author Christopher Plain on Twitter: @plain_fiction