Can love be programmed? According to an original article from Northwestern University, their researchers think so.
After a multitude of technological hurdles, a team of Northwestern researchers developed a small, wireless, battery-less implant for mice, for the purpose of using light to activate neurons. Known as optogenetics, the method is used by the researchers to alter the behaviour of the mice, inducing them to engage or disengage in social interaction.
What makes this version of the implant so important, however, isn’t the method of optogenetics, but the size and encumbrance of the device.
“With previous technologies, we were unable to observe multiple animals socially interacting in complex environments because they were tethered,” said Northwestern neurobiologist Yevgenia Kozorovitskiy, designer of the experiment, in an interview with NewAtlas. “The fibers would break or the animals would become entangled. In order to ask more complex questions about animal behavior in realistic environments, we needed this innovative wireless technology. It’s tremendous to get away from the tethers.”
So now that the device is the least intrusive that it has been in years, the mice are free to act as they would in a natural environment.
As Northwestern bioelectronics pioneer John A. Rogers, leader of technology development said:
“Brain activity in an isolated animal is interesting, but going beyond research on individuals to studies of complex, socially interacting groups is one of the most important and exciting frontiers in neuroscience. We now have the technology to investigate how bonds form and break between individuals in these groups and to examine how social hierarchies arise from these interactions.”
To study the relationship between social interaction and the brain, Kozorovitskiy’s team synchronously activated a set of neurons in an area of the brain associated with higher order executive function. Incredibly, the stimulation resulted in an increase in the duration and frequency of the affected mice’s social interactions.
“We didn’t actually think this would work,” Kozorovitskiy stated. “To our knowledge, this is the first direct evaluation of a major long-standing hypothesis about neural synchrony in social behavior.”
So has love been programmed? Not exactly, but we can induce mice to interact more through optogenetic manipulation of neuronal pathways.
Essentially, we are one step closer to mind control. Fantastic.
What could go wrong?