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Controlling Monkey Brains and Behavior With Light

Soulskill posted about 2 years ago | from the they've-gone-completely-bananas dept.

Biotech 77

An anonymous reader writes "Researchers reporting online on July 26 in Current Biology have for the first time shown that they can control the behavior of monkeys by using pulses of blue light to very specifically activate particular brain cells (abstract). The findings represent a key advance for optogenetics, a state-of-the-art method for making causal connections between brain activity and behavior. Based on the discovery, the researchers say that similar light-based mind control could likely also be made to work in humans for therapeutic ends."

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Humans... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40802947)

..are monkeys too, unless you're in the Tea Party, then you're just apeshit crazy.

Re:Humans... (-1, Troll)

vistapwns (1103935) | about 2 years ago | (#40803035)

If I didn't know anything about the Tea party of their opposition, I would assume the Tea Party were the best from reading your post. Why? Because you did not dedicate that time and energy telling us the wonders of the other what you believe in, so must not be much to tell..

Re:Humans... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40803065)

You missunderstood and twisted what he said into a sentence that makes little sense. You must already be a Tea party memeber.

Re:Humans... (-1, Troll)

vistapwns (1103935) | about 2 years ago | (#40803095)

How did I misunderstand and twist what he said? He made a negative comment about something he presumably hates, instead of telling us the wonders of something he loves. Honestly, I can only surmise that what he loves is worse since he could have just told us the wonders of it. I did hit submit when I meant to hit preview so I left some editing errors in, but generally that's what I said and meant.

Re:Humans... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40803071)

Just because an Anonymous Coward is a lazy idiot doesn't mean that the Tea Party is helpful

Re:Humans... (-1, Troll)

vistapwns (1103935) | about 2 years ago | (#40803133)

Depends on what is being helped/unhelped. They are certainly helpful enough not to spam off topic flame bait in this particular thread.

Re:Humans... (1)

matunos (1587263) | about 2 years ago | (#40803063)

Humans are apes. "Monkey" excludes hominids.

Re:Humans... (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40803085)

Oook!

Re:Humans... (1)

caution live frogs (1196367) | about 2 years ago | (#40804773)

Recent data shows that "monkey" is only a monophyletic group if you also include apes. So no, humans are monkeys after all, in the exact same a that birds are dinosaurs.

Mind control.. (5, Funny)

vistapwns (1103935) | about 2 years ago | (#40802959)

Great, now I'll need to find some matching sun glasses to go with my tin foil hat..

Re:Mind control.. (2)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about 2 years ago | (#40803643)

This pair should do [laser2000.se] . you need something with decent protection from 480 nm.

But realistically, as long as you don't have any exposed trepanations or evidence of brain surgery, you're probably okay.

Re:Mind control.. (1)

SpzToid (869795) | about 2 years ago | (#40803713)

You have heard to 'stay away from the light' haven't you?

(And no I am not referring to a scene of some sort or other in every single Steven Spielberg movie. i.e. E.T., Poltergeist, Close Encounters of the Third Kind...)

Re:Mind control.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40803845)

I get the feeling from looking at my screen that you don't have to worry about that.

Only if you've had your brain injected... (2)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | about 2 years ago | (#40804513)

Great, now I'll need to find some matching sun glasses to go with my tin foil hat.

Only if you've had your brain injected with the artificial retroviral biotech material.

This is just an application of an existing technology to primates. No big news.

The technique involves injecting the brain in the desired region with an artificial retrovirus-like agent. This contains a gene for an artificial surface protein that triggers the nerve to fire when exposed to a particular color of light, along with a promoter that activates the gene only in the correct type of neuron. The combination of the selective promoter and selective injection site makes it possible to target a particular set of nerves.

A couple of similar gene hacks can be used to get output by making selected cells flash in one of two colors when they fire.

(I read TFA hoping they'd found a way to use light to fire general nerves without first modifying them. But that was apparently not the case.)

So if the mind controllers haven't been drilling holes in your skull and sticking needles into your brain you don't need the shades.

Yet. B-)

Re:Only if you've had your brain injected... (1)

caution live frogs (1196367) | about 2 years ago | (#40804817)

Biggest issue with the technique right now is selective targeting. To do it you need to know the promoter sequence for a gene of interest, and it has to be small enough to be packaged into the viral vector along with the channelrhodopsin (to activate neurons) or halorhodopsin (to inactivate neurons, responds to yellow rather than blue wavelengths). For many genes the promoters are either not well characterized or too big, which is why so much of the current work in optogenetics is being done in mice - we have the genome mapped out and can easily generate transgenics to avoid the use of viral approaches. I really wish we could do this in rats as easily as in mice. My entire lab is having to switch over from rats to mice for some planned studies and grants, because the tools just aren't as mature in rats. And it's expensive as hell to get up and running... And mice are cheaper than rats. (Lasers are expensive too... Our lab is going with the LEDs, but the original work was all lasers.)

About a year ago I did the trip to Stanford to see how this is done... I mean, seriously people. Have you ever actually SEEN a mouse with laser beams shooting into its head? It's what we always expected science would look like when we were kids.

Pointless research (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40802979)

Just use a computer and a harmonics based RF BCI.

Task Orientated (5, Funny)

Sponge Bath (413667) | about 2 years ago | (#40802997)

With the proper feedback mechanism the primate can be compelled to perform a variety of directed tasks. One such method is the mod point.

Re:Task Orientated (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40803353)

Yes but unfortunately Funny mods no longer give a karma boost. Monkeybrain fail.

Re:Task Orientated (2)

mister_playboy (1474163) | about 2 years ago | (#40803701)

That doesn't matter for all of us already sitting at the karma cap.

Still waiting for /. to release an expansion so I can level up past "Excellent".

Re:Task Orientated (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40803771)

Yes we know, the Democratic party has been using this technology for almost 100 years now.

Aren't we doing well citizen?

This explains ... (1)

PPH (736903) | about 2 years ago | (#40803031)

... the kewl blue LEDs on the front of everything.

Note to self: Investigate modulating the LED intensity via a s/w trojan planted on laptops as a means of mind control and the first step to acheiving world domination.

Bwaaaah haaaa haaaa!

Re:This explains ... (1)

Agent0013 (828350) | about 2 years ago | (#40831709)

... the kewl blue LEDs on the front of everything.

Note to self: Investigate modulating the LED intensity via a s/w trojan planted on laptops as a means of mind control and the first step to acheiving world domination.

Bwaaaah haaaa haaaa!

Gee Brain, then what are we going to do tomorrow?

Prior art: (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40803079)

Americans and TV

Re:Prior art: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40804229)

Olympic ceremony. The Rich and famous are now under the control of ....

Source: "LED lights were planted into the seating around the arena to add light shows to each performance." http://www.examiner.com/article/london-opening-ceremonies-wow-the-world

Re:Prior art: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40804501)

Why's it gotta be Americans? /racist

(Yes, I'm satirizing the American obsession with racism even where not applicable.)

-Or a movie, perhaps..... (1)

Slugster (635830) | about 2 years ago | (#40804503)

Does anybody else remember the movie 'Looker'?
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0082677/ [imdb.com]

-Or a book, perhaps..... (1)

michelcolman (1208008) | about 2 years ago | (#40806547)

I was thinking more of the funny science fiction novel "Shades of Grey" by Jasper Fforde where people get healed by being shown certain colors (and can even overdose on certain pleasure-inducing colors). Maybe not so far-fetched after all? It's quite amazing how many seemingly absurd elements of that story start to make sense after a while, I can't wait for part 2 and 3.

(note: I did not mean "fifty shades of grey" which is an entirely different book that appears to be more popular for some reason)

Re:Prior art: (1)

saveferrousoxide (2566033) | about 2 years ago | (#40908573)

Well played, Sir!

Next step (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40803123)

...and now, on to congress!

Well that explains that (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40803155)

ALL GLORY TO THE HYPNOTOAD

Re:Well that explains that (1)

GargamelSpaceman (992546) | about 2 years ago | (#40819159)

The other night I saw a video of a cat being shown a video. Electrodes in the cat's brain, were wired to a screen showing a slightly garbled version of that same video. So light from a video went in the cat's eyes, then electrodes in the cat's brain took the image and fed it to another video screen and the image was recognizable. I for one am impressed.

We've known this for years (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40803197)

This technique has been working for years in other species. There was no a priori reason it could not work in primates, it's just that nobody tried.

Wow (1)

mmmmbeer (107215) | about 2 years ago | (#40803219)

This gives a whole new meaning to the term "Mood Lighting."

We control the horizontal. We control the vertical (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40803247)

Based on the discovery, the researchers say that similar light-based mind control could likely also be made to work in humans for therapeutic ends."

Yeah, right.

Re:We control the horizontal. We control the verti (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40803719)

The Outer Limits... sounds like something they should play on that "SyFy" channel, doesn't it?

Nah...

Life Imitates Art.. (2)

Brickwall (985910) | about 2 years ago | (#40803277)

Controlling people's behaviour with light impulses was part of the plot line in last week's episode of "Continuum".

Re:Life Imitates Art.. (1)

boarder8925 (714555) | about 2 years ago | (#40803457)

No, they had it years before Continuum. They call it TV. ;)

Re:Life Imitates Art.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40803657)

How about Whendon's Dollhouse.

Re:Life Imitates Art.. (1)

xstonedogx (814876) | about 2 years ago | (#40804515)

I've seen this before in sci-fi, but I'm most familiar with it from "real" alien abduction stories.

*cue ominous sounding music*

Already have a box that emits light 4 mind control (1)

GoodNewsJimDotCom (2244874) | about 2 years ago | (#40803355)

They call it television. It works very well by telling people what is cool and what isn't. Also in election years, the politicians tell the people what they want to hear by spending money, and naive voters pick their candidate on this. Big media does their part too by making the bought and paid for candidate sound smart and the opposition sound like a negative radical.

see also vigilantcitizen.com (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40803723)

millions of beer drinkers who still think football and most sports really matter and are important, lulled to sleep during elections where they choose one of the two coporate backed, possible occultist/secret society members.

We have "owners", they "own us."

Google: George Carlin, 'our owners', and 'Education' or just search YouTube.

Yoyu fail It?! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40803361)

during this file Code sharing declined in market Exactly what you've could sink your coming a piss with the laundry Despite the

Controlling people with images in their browsers (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about 2 years ago | (#40803363)

What a great idea . . . although, I guess Facebook already does that.

They were very successful at convincing their users to buy their stock.

Superior BCIs (1)

wierd_w (1375923) | about 2 years ago | (#40803503)

As another poster pointed out, we have known this for years concerning neurons.

The deal here, is that we need to introduce a benign photopigment gene (like jellyfish fluorescent protein) into the target's neurons, then produce a contact-free BCI that uses small solid-state laser diodes as the signalling pin grid array, coupled with a sensitive CCD that records the flash patterns of the activating neurons underneath.

Using different frequencies of light for signal and reception allows you to isolate signal data.

A fully contact-free BCI could be created this way.

Yeah, I'm controlled with light too (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40803557)

Like, when the traffic light turns red, I stop the car.
When it turns green, I go.

It's all done with light and nothing else.

Brilliant, huh?

Controlling Monkey Brains and Behavior With Light (1)

Latinhypercube (935707) | about 2 years ago | (#40803575)

Controlling Monkey Brains and Behavior With Light...

Isn't that called FOX NEWS ?

Olde News... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40803693)

iPhones have been doing this for decades now...

Change your wallpaper, too! Oh, and.. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40803709)

I'm always suspicious of stock wallpaper shipping with a distro or a beast like Microsoft Windows. Think of the millions of eyes which view these same images every day, for hours and hours on end.

The same for popular music where millions are listening to the same single copy reproduced millions of times, possible subliminals backed by powerful companies with possible occult ties.

Most media coming from powerful countries is controlled, shaped, and fashioned to provide a concentration camp effect for the mind.

Old knowledge (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40803731)

Monkeys see, monkeys do.

Used for therapeutic ends (1)

c4tp (526292) | about 2 years ago | (#40803779)

Good, TFA never mentions how this could be used for nefarious purposes. I mean, with algae-based gene therapy on brain cells and fiber optic cables crammed into your head, what could possibly go wrong?

Useful for torture as well. (1)

elucido (870205) | about 2 years ago | (#40806791)

Good, TFA never mentions how this could be used for nefarious purposes. I mean, with algae-based gene therapy on brain cells and fiber optic cables crammed into your head, what could possibly go wrong?

If this technology were built up by the wrong people in the right way it could replace waterboarding.

Umm yeah. Therapeutic. (1)

Shavano (2541114) | about 2 years ago | (#40803803)

We all believe that, right?

Re:Umm yeah. Therapeutic. (1)

rmdingler (1955220) | about 2 years ago | (#40805567)

Graet minds is what I'm going with...if it can be used for good it'll be adapted for evil. Althoughm fortunately, if A=B, B=A.

That's nothing! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40803831)

We can control all of the people in the world with light! Comming out of the tv...

Powerful research tool (1)

tgibbs (83782) | about 2 years ago | (#40803991)

This is a very promising technology. Minimally, it is already proving invaluable for neuroscience research. What it means is that using genetic engineering (e.g. viral introduction of engineered genes into the brain) you can activate or inhibit a specific class of neurons (more precisely: neurons in which a specific genetic promoter is active) in a small brain region (using a surgically implanted optical fiber), and you can do so on the time scale of normal neuronal firing.

This is a very powerful tool for mapping out the function of genetically identifiable classes of neurons. Turn 'em off, see what functions are impaired. Make 'em fire action potentials, and see what happens.

Moreover, this is potentially a mechanism for introducing information directly into the brain. We don't really understand the brain well enough to do anything terribly useful with that, but taking the (very) long view, it could be a technique for direct brain-computer interfacing. Of course, activating all of the neurons of a particular type in a small region is still pretty crude compared with directly addressing individual neurons, so it is hard to know how useful this will be in practice. Even at this crude level, it will probably be medically useful for treating neurological disorders like epilepsy and Parkinson's Disease, and in the process we will identify and resolve the safety issues. You'd have to be nuts to do this sort of thing to a human being just for research purposes, but for treatment of severe disease, it will likely be worth the gamble.

Also, for a real interface you want bidirectional information flow. But it might be possible to get information out of the brain optically as well, using genetically engineered fluorescent proteins that react to things like changes in neuronal calcium levels or membrane voltage, exciting the proteins and picking up their emissions using the same kind of surgically implanted optical probes.

Re:Powerful research tool (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40804539)

Posting as AC so I can mod the parent up; he appears to be almost the only poster who read the damn article.

I have to add that this is perhaps the worst summary ever; it says something like "researchers say this technique could be used in humans for therapeutic purposes", but of course the researchers said no such thing! The technique requires 1) genetically engineering neurons to include algae genes and 2) physically implanting fiber optics in the brain. An interesting research tool to be sure, but not something with any direct clinical applications.

Re:Powerful research tool (1)

tgibbs (83782) | about 2 years ago | (#40805521)

I think clinical applications may emerge relatively soon. Deep brain stimulation for Parkinson's Disease is well established, and that requires implanting a stimulating electrode in the brain. This technique would require the additional step of viral mediated gene transfection, but would probably be less damaging to the tissue than electrical stimulation. Similarly, I could imagine this being used for drug-resistant epilepsy as an alternative to surgical removal of the focus. There might also be applications for drug addiction, where there is currently no reliable therapy.

A small step for mankind... (1)

M8e (1008767) | about 2 years ago | (#40804015)

A small step for mankind, a giant leap for monkeys writing the complete works of William Shakespeare.

Wait deja vu? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40804057)

Didn't I just see this on Continuum? ( episode 8 http://continuumtheseries.com/ )

Ummmmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40804065)

I control my brain with light — light beer.

Wow! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40804105)

They discovered TV!

Remote Control Mouse (1)

SeverianVoid (2695897) | about 2 years ago | (#40804285)

Here is a nice video for a more striking visual example. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=88TVQZUfYGw [youtube.com]

Re:Remote Control Mouse (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | about 2 years ago | (#40810699)

Hey, I've had a wireless optical mouse for years!

Typical Slashdot sociopaths... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40804301)

Loads of stupid, moronic posts about this, as if it's all a 'bit of a laugh', right?

Do you know what the word 'pain' means? Have you ever experienced it?

Couldn't your sociopathic minds even begin to wonder what those monkeys went through? Why no video footage of this pointless 'research'? Wouldn't that be hugely beneficial for other scientists? Oh wait - we can't have the public seeing what these nutcases do to animals, can we.

God help your children (if any of you wankers manage to ever have any) - imagine having a father who can't feel your emotions, and can only pretend to be 'normal' and empathic.

Re:Typical Slashdot sociopaths... (1)

Johann Lau (1040920) | about 2 years ago | (#40805599)

This is the only comment in the whole discussion that is worth crap.

Re:Typical Slashdot sociopaths... (1)

Erpo (237853) | about 2 years ago | (#40808913)

You bring up a very interesting point here--one that was conspicuously absent from the article and other comments.

Could the reason for this perspective be that articles about animal experimentation are written by and for people who have already largely decided that the benefits of animal experimentation outweigh the drawbacks? Is applying labels to your audience such as "stupid", "moronic", "sociopathic" and "nutcases" the most effective way to engage them in a constructive debate that will eventually result in a reduction in this type of hurtful behavior?

This is slashdot. Everyone here understands how it feels to perceive an injustice and be emotionally overwhelmed by it. That said, please consider revising your argumentative strategy to encourage constructive conversation.

To answer one of your questions, I do think it would be a good idea to produce and distribute video footage of this research. Here are some reasons:
  1. It would encourage researchers to think twice about whether their actions would be considered appropriate and justifiable by the general public. My ethics manual at work offers the following simple test to help employees judge the appropriateness of their actions: "Would you do it if your coworkers and family were watching?"
  2. It would improve the accuracy of the research. When performing experiments, it is important to keep detailed notes on the procedure being performed in order to be able to duplicate the results at a later time, or for other researchers to be able to duplicate the results. Nevertheless, it is possible to make errors or omissions in these notes, and that creates problems. An objective video recording could remedy that situation.
  3. It would improve the accessibility of the research. Many people can understand a process better by seeing it done than they can by reading about it.

If you think these are good points, please feel free to reuse them. If you intend to continue arguing in favor of this kind of oversight, it would also be a good idea to anticipate some of the arguments your opponents might make against video recording so you can be prepared to counter them. Some of those arguments might be:

  1. Video records are more expensive and difficult to record, store and distribute than text-based notes and pictures.
  2. In particular, scientific journals cannot publish video recordings without attaching a CD or DVD to the issue or maintaining a companion web site. Whether or not you believe scientific journals are the best way to distribute research, it cannot be denied that they are popular and important.
  3. Video recordings that can be used to identify the individual researchers could make it easier for criminally inclined animal rights activists to perpetrate acts of violence.

Good luck in your future debates!

Goodie! (1)

InspectorGadget1964 (2439148) | about 2 years ago | (#40804345)

I will try that on my manager

lol catz (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40804423)

Funny, I've been able to remote control at cat with a simple flashlight (and now lasers) for years!

Flashes of blue light work on you too (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40804793)

Flashes of blue light have been shown to increase blood pressure, elevate stress hormone levels
and trigger sweating when observed through a rearview mirror.

Wasn't this last week's episode of Continuum? (1)

holophrastic (221104) | about 2 years ago | (#40805019)

Wasn't this last week's episode of Continuum verbatim?

You mean (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40806225)

... light-based mind control ...

A) This won't work. Politicians need money for re-election or retirement.

B) Some-one make a joke about Jedi mind-tricks. Additional kudos if it includes a light-sabre.

C) How do you make a blonde change her mind? Shine a torch in her ear.

Oh, that explains... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40810553)

That explains the lights i saw just before being abducted by aliens, then awakening hours later wearing a tutu and an umbrella.

Wait (1)

DanielBMS (1871138) | about 2 years ago | (#40812937)

Wait, is the light shown to the monkeys or is it injected inside their brains?
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