Scientists Can Now Control Mouse Minds With Magnets

And that could have huge implications for humans
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 9, 2016 5:50 PM CST
Scientists Can Now Control Mouse Minds With Magnets
Scientists at the University of Virginia were able to use magnetic fields to control the brains of living mice.   (Courtesy Xiao-Yang Zhao/Southern Medical University via AP)

Scientists at the University of Virginia were able to control the brains of living mice using magnetic fields, essentially harnessing the power of mind control, according to a study published this week in Nature Neuroscience. Researchers created a synthetic gene—dubbed Magneto, obviously—that is sensitive to magnetic fields and put it into a handful of mice, a university press release explains. Ars Technica reports scientists then created a magnetic field to simulate a dopamine-like response in the genetically altered mice—basically the mice felt as happy as if they had just been given a treat. “This is, to our knowledge, the first demonstration of bona fide magnetic control of the nervous system,” Ars Technica quotes the researchers as saying.

Until this newfound power is hijacked by a super villain, scientists hope to use it to study how the brain works and test out "magneto-genetic" therapies for people with brain disorders. Ali Deniz Güler, the study's lead author, called their results a "dream tool." In the immediate future, researchers can use it to figure out what pathways in the brain do what in terms of feelings and behaviors, IEEE Spectrum reports. In the future, it could be used to control neural networks that aren't functioning properly, potentially treating conditions like schizophrenia and Parkinson's disease. (Dogs apparently mastered magnetic fields long ago, using the one created by Earth for pooping.)

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