STATES CHRONICLE – Scientists have reached to find out more about the brain and its functions due to killer mice. A team of researchers has used a technique meant to control the mind of those little creatures, transforming them into killer mice. The technique used is called optogenetics. It is supposed to use light to manipulate neurons, triggering a different behavior for creatures like mice.
After this mysterious light had been switched off, the mice behaved in a calm and natural way. Some of them scampered around their cages to hide from prey or to avoid looking at toys which might seem like a prey for them. Nevertheless, when the switch was on, all mice started behaving unusually. Mice started killing crickets or toys which might have looked like victims were bitten.
Ivan de Araujo, the author of the study which was published on January 12 in the Cell magazine, argued that he together with his team are trying to use this light to understand how exactly the brain of these creatures works. Araujo is also an associate professor of psychiatry and physiology at Yale University. He together with Wenfei Han of Yale and Milton Canteras, his co-author but also a neurobiologist at the University of Sao Paolo attempted to reveal what brain parts trigger appropriate motor responses.
By analyzing the complex functions of the brain which are responsible for controlling predatory characteristics represents a suitable way to try and answer the question mentioned above. Predatory behavior refers to triggering complex motor actions. If neurobiologists manage to study this, they may be able to reveal the organization of distinct parts of the brain. Thus, they will be able to examine how impulses for kill, bite, pounce, track and hunt work.
Araujo also noted that over a three-year time span, he managed to figure out what were the signals which triggered the movement of mice’s necks, the movement of the jaws of the position of their heads. Their target was to stimulate the groups of neurons responsible for enabling pursuit, predatory hunting, capture, and killing.
This group of researchers used twelve mice and attached a monitoring device on their heads. The light pulsed blue when the neurons were engineered to be activated and trigger the instinct of killing. However, the author of the study wanted to underline the fact that mice did not attack other mice.
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