Saturday, July 27, 2019

Light Found to Induce Hallucinations in Mouse Brains

Article Written By: Mehak Bhansali


Stanford University’s neuroscientist Karl Deissertoth and his team have observed a breakthrough phenomenon - how light can be used to fire specific neurons and stimulate certain images subsequently in the brains of mice. 

In the experiment, mice were shown visuals of vertical and horizontal lines separately. Furthermore, the scientists trained the mice so that when they were shown the vertical bars at any point, they consequently licked a tube of water. After analyzing records from the brains of the mice and the activity of the neurons, Deissertoth and his team noticed twenty or so neurons whose activity was linked to the image of vertical bars. 

The scientists then shone light on these twenty neurons and observed that the mice would start licking the water tubes, as they were trained to do so, in the absence of any image. This lead Deisseroth and his colleagues to believe that shining light on the specific neurons induced hallucinations of the vertical bars in the mice. When shining light on the neurons that were associated with the horizontal bars however, the mice did not lick the tube. 

This method of manipulating neurons with light is referred to as optogenetics, and scientists are utilizing this technology to understand the connections between the neurons associated with particular images and the areas of the brain that interpret those images. 

Read the full article by Nature Research:

Read the full article by Scientific American:

Image credits:
Dr. Chris Henstridge/Science Photo Library

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