Researchers at Washington University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have developed tiny, wireless devices that can be implanted inside the brains of mice to influence their behavior.
The devices include ultra-miniaturized light-emitting diodes, or LEDs, which allowed the researchers to stimulate the animals' brain cells, some of which had been genetically engineered to respond to light. Study co-lead, Washington University neuroscientist Michael Bruchas, says they wanted to find a way to control the brain circuits of the mice without using wires or tethers.
Bruchas says "we came up with a solution to allow for wireless control using similar technology that's in your cell phone to actually control these micro-LEDs, and then in turn control inside, deep inside the brain, various populations of neurons that we're interested in studying." Bruchas says the devices will help researchers study mouse brain pathways involved in behaviors like anxiety and addiction. In the future, similar technologies could be used to treat human brain disorders like Parkinson's disease.