Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine are working hard to discover the secrets our brain still keeps from us. And what better way to do that than by conducting experiments of mice.
Mice have started hallucinating
The team of researchers developed a new laser technology with the help of which succeeded in triggering distinct hallucinations in lab mice. How did they do that? you might ask. The scientists started by lighting up certain neurons with rays of light. The aim of the experiment is to find out how the brain neurons discern the environment in order to create treatments for psychological disorders, among which are also the hallucinations.
This research comes after many other experiments in which scientists were able to manipulate neurons in the brain to light on if and when they are affected by a flicker of light. The researchers first had to understand how neurons functioned. As we all know, neurons come in various kinds, therefore all behave differently to stimuli.
As they wanted to choose any brain neuron and switch it on and off with the help of light they conceived a gadget that could carry very small ray of red light to different neurons at the same time. Then, the team introduced two genes into the neurons of the visual cortex in mice. One of the genes was hypersensitive to light, while the other was supposed to create a green spark when switched on in order for the scientists to record their activity.
The mice were then presented images of vertical and horizontal stripes. The mice were taught to lick a water pipe when they perceived vertical stripes. During this experiment, some neurons lit up for vertical stripes, some for horizontal stripes. The researchers, after putting out the images, lit up the neurons for each kind of stripes even though the room was dark. The mice thought they saw vertical stripes and licked the pipe. The researchers continued to excite the neurons until they ended up triggering only two neurons. The mice continued to lick the pipe as if they saw vertical stripes.
This experiment had valuable results as by this, researchers can further their studies and discover the causes of hallucinations.
Benjamin Diaz started working for Debate Report in 2017. Ben grew up in a small town in northern Ontario. He studied chemistry in college, graduated, and married his wife a year later. Benhas been a proud Torontonian for the past 10 years. He covers politics and the economy. Previously he wrote for CTV News and the Huffington Post Canada.