×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

MIT Shows How to Shut Down Brain With Light

samzenpus posted about 7 years ago | from the men-in-black dept.

Biotech 223

An anonymous reader writes "The MIT home-page story today is about a way to use light to shut down brain activity. "Scientists at the MIT Media Lab have invented a way to reversibly silence brain cells using pulses of yellow light, offering the prospect of controlling the haywire neuron activity that occurs in diseases such as epilepsy and Parkinson's disease."

cancel ×
This is a preview of your comment

No Comment Title Entered

Anonymous Coward 1 minute ago

No Comment Entered

223 comments

There are easier ways (5, Funny)

joe_cot (1011355) | about 7 years ago | (#18525831)

There are easier ways to shut down brain activity. 4chan comes to mind.

Re:There are easier ways (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18525899)

Its an amber light for mind control though ....

Re:There are easier ways (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18525945)

Violation of rule 1 and 2.
The Party Van will pick you up in 20 minutes.


- we are anonymous, we are legion

Re:There are easier ways (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18526005)

You can have a funny mod since it doesn't add karma for violating rules 1 and 2.

Anonymous never forgives.

Re:There are easier ways (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18526019)

Congrats on knowing how moderation works. Since it's still only +1 funny, I assume you weren't smart enough to log out and clear session before posting anon. posting + moderating in same thread = moderation disappears and you waste a mod point. Perhaps if you lurked more you'd know that.

Rule 34 challenge (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18526013)

Subject: CowboyNeal

Re:Rule 34 challenge (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18526099)

Don't tempt anonymous...

Re:Rule 34 challenge (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18526123)

I think this will result in rule 35...

Re:There are easier ways (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18526235)

Whats sadder is your name is joe_cot, just reminds me of the cotton eyed joe theme the other day there... god my eyes hurt still

Re:There are easier ways (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18526329)

Especially that horrid blinking background that is the pinnacle of epic fail on /b/.

Moot, if you read Slashdot, then know this! Anonymous cannot tolerate blinking backgrounds that brings his computer to a halt, you insensitive clod!

Re:There are easier ways (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18526347)

In b4 b&.

p.s. if you don't know why he put that on, you need to lurk moar. ALOT moar.

Re:There are easier ways (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18526911)

Anonymous cannot tolerate blinking backgrounds
Firefox : View -> Style -> Basic Page Style
Opera : Opera sucks sure there's an ebuild for opera but it just get dropped to /opt, it's statically linked, and it's CLOSED SOURCE, which means that it is a BINARY package.
IE : Enjoy your AIDS

Re:There are easier ways (0, Offtopic)

Majik Sheff (930627) | about 7 years ago | (#18526839)

Holy crap there are a lot of /b/tards on Slashdot. I never knew! In b4 offtopic mod.

Re:There are easier ways (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18526985)

TRIPFAG GTFO

Re:There are easier ways (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18526973)

This is the opposite of my findings. Take away all light, and my brain activity ceases and I begin to snore.

Who wants to bet... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18525837)

...that this is actually a plan to invent the Neuralizer from Men in Black?

Re:Who wants to bet... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18525851)

...that people who use ellipses as part of their subject line and the first thing in their post, (especially fucking stupid posts) are retards?

Re:Who wants to bet... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18526903)

My grandpa has ellipses you insensitive clod!

Finally! (5, Funny)

Steve--Balllmer (1070854) | about 7 years ago | (#18525845)

... a scientific reason why we /.ers should not leave the darkness of our parents' basements and our computer monitors, and continue to avoid the dreaded realm known as "outside".

Could this also be used to... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18526519)

sedate rabid Muslims when they start frothing at the mouth when someone looks at their Koran the wrong way even though they just finished wiping their ass on a page from a Bible at the Church of the Nativity?

Slight problem with their idea... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18525857)

According to the article:

When neurons are engineered to express the halorhodopsin gene, the researchers can inhibit their activity by shining yellow light on them. Light activates the chloride pumps, which drive chloride ions into the neurons, lowering their voltage and silencing their firing.
So, if we genetically engineer some people with Parkinson's or epilepsy to have these halorhodopsin neurons, we can give them a normal life as long as we find a way to shine light directly into their brains?

Re:Slight problem with their idea... (3, Insightful)

mrbluze (1034940) | about 7 years ago | (#18526077)

So, if we genetically engineer some people with Parkinson's or epilepsy to have these halorhodopsin neurons, we can give them a normal life as long as we find a way to shine light directly into their brains?

I think the article infers that we genetically engineer animals with Parkinson's and Epilepsy having the gene (that is, set up a disease model), then implant LED's into their heads, play with the lights and see what happens, then get a PhD and maybe even a Nobel Prize.

It's unlikely they would use this method in actual human therapy.

Re:Slight problem with their idea... (4, Insightful)

kripkenstein (913150) | about 7 years ago | (#18526547)

No, actually the article directly implies that human treatment will come out of this:

"In the future, controlling the activity patterns of neurons may enable very specific treatments for neurological and psychiatric diseases, with few or no side effects," said Edward Boyden, assistant professor
- so this is not just a case of a bad writeup of serious research, or a bad summary on Slashdot. It could be a quote taken out of context, though. In any case, the researchers think this (or something related to it) will be viable eventually, while I, for one, must agree with the grandparent post - how exactly will these light-sensitive chloride pumps get into the brains of already-living sick people?

I assume that the final human treatment, if any is arrived at, will be very different from what they are doing at present. Time will tell. In any case, a very interesting area of research, even if it is hyped a little regarding possible applications.

Re:Slight problem with their idea... (1)

mrbluze (1034940) | about 7 years ago | (#18526631)

- so this is not just a case of a bad writeup of serious research, or a bad summary on Slashdot.

Indeed you're right, but I'm just a bit skeptical about gene therapies for this kind of thing - but anything is possible, right?

Chloride channels, when opened, generally inhibit brain activity. This is the basis of anaesthetic agents, by and large, and the treatment for acute epileptic seizures. The problem is that the brain reuses the same channel types everywhere, and it's frightfully hard to get targeted drug therapies. If, on the other hand, we could get drugs into the body which are otherwise inactive, but become activated when exposed to the light source, then this would allow extremely targeted therapy - not just with treating epilepsy or parkinson's disease, but for isolated tumour masses. But I still don't think that this is what they were thinking of in the write up.

No, actually the article directly implies that human treatment will come out of this:

Practically all animal medical research is directed towards solving human health problems, so I implied that also - just I think it will be less direct. The probable outcome from this research will be both surgical and pharmacological, I'm sure, but I don't think we'll be putting lights into people's heads any time soon, at least not for this purpose.

Re:Slight problem with their idea... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18526179)

So, if we genetically engineer some people with Parkinson's or epilepsy to have these halorhodopsin neurons, we can give them a normal life as long as we find a way to shine light directly into their brains?


Wait! It's better. This person who's a little brain-fried from parkinsons or epilepsy shows up for a treatment/fitness consultation, and the doctor says, "Well, there's two choices, really. We can go with a massive jolt of electricity, or we can fire off a big-ass flashlamp in your brain! Which way do you want to go?"

Re:Slight problem with their idea... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18526371)

The talk in the article of using this technique to help patients with various diseases is just hype to keep the funding bodies happy. Life science grants in the States have been cut substantially becauses of Bush's war-mongering and there's a scramble for cash. On the other hand, the technique is very interesting for pure neuroscience research because we now have a way of using light to rapidly and very selectively switch activity on and off in a brain slice. Up to this point we've had to either bathe the whole slice in a substance that alters activity or to apply it through a pippette to the region of interest. The latter method is obviously better but requires careful application and the substance may need to be washed out before continuing the experiment. Using light allows us to control activity like a switch and by focusing the signal we'd be able to stimulate or inhibit (multiple?) regions of whatever size we saw fit. This is damn exciting stuff.

Re:Slight problem with their idea... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18526491)

OK, now the breakthrough is made, it's time to make plan to put this discovery to good use.

Basically, from TFA, it boils down to following sequence of simple steps:

1. Invent a method to find out who...which human zygote will develop Parkinson's in later life.
2. recombine its DNA to introduce halorhodopsin gene (2.a. find out where to insert it)
3. embed the zygote back into placenta.
4. after the gestation and birth, wait 40-60 years for illness to develop
5. surgically open the scull of the patient, or drill holes at selected points of it
6. shed the yellow light on the brain
7. Profit!

Re:Slight problem with their idea... (1, Funny)

ijakings (982830) | about 7 years ago | (#18526843)

Oh dear, you violated one of the most sacred of all troll posts. How can you profit sequence without the ???'s?! its the ??? that makes it funny. Observe: 1) Invent a device to stab trolls in the face through the internet 2) ??? 3) Profit! Its just that easy.

does it come in an ale? (4, Funny)

User 956 (568564) | about 7 years ago | (#18525859)

The MIT home-page story today is about a way to use light to shut down brain activity.

Well, I guess that's cheaper than alcohol.

Re:does it come in an ale? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18526301)

It'd be a horribly lite brew.

Re:does it come in an ale? (1)

untouchableForce (927584) | about 7 years ago | (#18526419)

Are you kidding me, do you know what the patent royalties will be for this. They'll probably charge you per lumen. On the bright side at least the RIAA doesn't have anything to do with it. They would charge you per lumen with an extra fee for every thought you had for the remainder of your life. And we won't even get into what would happen if you share one of those thoughts.

Makes sense (2, Funny)

gaderael (1081429) | about 7 years ago | (#18525891)

Considering certain patterns of light, as found in some video games, for example, have the ability to bring about seizures and people the suffer from Epilepsy, it makes sanse that certain patterns of light would also be able to reverse that effect.

Re:Makes sense (4, Insightful)

bindo (82607) | about 7 years ago | (#18525975)

Considering certain patterns of light, as found in some video games, for example, have the ability to bring about seizures and people the suffer from Epilepsy, it makes sanse that certain patterns of light would also be able to reverse that effect.

Considering certain patterns of falling boulders, as found on some mountains, for example, have the ability to bring death and people the suffer from Epilepsy (sic!). it makes sanse that certain patterns of falling boulders would also be able to reverse that effect.
NOT!

Common sense is not a substitute for knowledge. The two effects are not even related.

Re:Makes sense (1)

Lorkki (863577) | about 7 years ago | (#18526321)

I'm not sure if common sense is a proper name for that, it sounds more like weird cartoon logic to me.

Re:Makes sense (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | about 7 years ago | (#18526165)

Considering certain patterns of light, as found in some video games, for example, have the ability to bring about seizures and people the suffer from Epilepsy, it makes sanse that certain patterns of light would also be able to reverse that effect.

No, thats what happens when pulses of light generate signals in the brain via the optic nerve which interfere with existing signals in the brain. Incidently, back when people used to build strobe lights for discos, etc there used to be warnings about pulsing lights at certain frequencies.

Now we seem to regard bicycle tail lights which pulse at 12Hz as a good thing. I am not sure that I agree.

Turning Lights on in Young Minds (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18525901)

Just gained a new and potentially scarier meaning. What you bet that if this goes anywhere that ADHD is next on the list and the teacher gets a remote control?

I know this technique (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18525903)

It's called Family Vacation Slideshow.

Sounds like The Prisoner is coming to life! (1)

Tribbles (218927) | about 7 years ago | (#18525907)

As in the '60s British series - they had lights that pulsed over peoples faces to make them do/forget things...

Or Wolfe (1)

CRCulver (715279) | about 7 years ago | (#18525941)

Gene Wolfe's The Book of the Long Sun [amazon.com] had computer monitors could implant an artificial intelligence in anyone who looked at their patterns of swirling colours (as the population in the novels worshipped these artificial intelligences, this was seen as "possession by a god" like in ancient Greek thought). Ironically, this has been called by some critics the most scientifically unbelievable thing in the work, since "looking at patterns of light can't change your brain."

Re:Or Wolfe (4, Informative)

cnettel (836611) | about 7 years ago | (#18525979)

This is direct exposure, not through the eyes. In addition, the neurons have been altered (an added gene with a photosensitive product) to respond to this treatment.

It's about brain implants for research purposes (3, Insightful)

mrbluze (1034940) | about 7 years ago | (#18526107)

Did anyone read TFA? It has nothing to do with light entering the eye and hitting the retina. Forget the strobe lights!

This study is great, because it means we can study animals better. It means researchers will get much more useful information from animal studies (instead of operating on 1000's of rabbits or something, they can do heaps of studies on just one rabbit), which will lead to new and better targets for drug research, better drugs, and perhaps a cure - way down the track.

Re:It's about brain implants for research purposes (3, Funny)

ogma (755652) | about 7 years ago | (#18526251)

"This study is great ... instead of operating on 1000's of rabbits ... they can do heaps of studies on just one rabbit"

Unless you're that one rabbit!

Re:It's about brain implants for research purposes (4, Funny)

bobscealy (830639) | about 7 years ago | (#18526335)

Did anyone read TFA?



You ain't from round here, are you boy?

Re:It's about brain implants for research purposes (1)

mrogers (85392) | about 7 years ago | (#18526565)

You can't do a series of experiments on the same animal, because the effects of previous experiments could interfere with the current experiment. Animals are usually "sacrificed" after one experiment because they're no longer useful from a statistical point of view, regardless of whether it's physically possible to perform further experiments on them.

Re:It's about brain implants for research purposes (1)

tgv (254536) | about 7 years ago | (#18526693)

Did any read it? You might better ask: did anyone understand it? Because that doesn't seem to be necessary to get +5 insightful for you comments.

About the interference from previous experiments within the same animal: it depends on what you want to investigate. Of course there is neural adaptation, but in most regions it is quite slow. So after one experiment you might let the animal run around under normal conditions and it'll be as ready as ever, if only for another experiment.

Plus, when you're able to suppress unrelated activity, you might get a much cleaner signal and thus need less animals.

Hooray! (5, Funny)

mikkelm (1000451) | about 7 years ago | (#18525913)

Finally I can get a pair of tinfoil shades to go with my hat.

Re:Hooray! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18526155)

Related:

>
> "The research was funded by an anonymous donor [...]"
>

We sure all wonder who is this "anonymous donor".

>
> "The technique also offers a way to study other brain
> diseases, as well as normal brain circuitry, offering
> insight into which brain regions and neurons contribute
> to specific behaviors or pathological states, Boyden said."
>

It could indeed be useful, for pathological states like wanting more freedom, more privacy, more reasonability, and less stress, less oppression, less frustration, etc., and worst of all, acting on these desires.

*Ahhh*.... just who might be this "anonymous donor"...

is it a tv? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18525915)

otherwise known as a boobtube....

Hmmm, sounds strangely familiar (1)

Slugster (635830) | about 7 years ago | (#18525977)

Any of you young'uns old enough to remember the movie Looker?
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0082677/ [imdb.com]
....
Hmmmm,,,
Holy shit! They're two for two-- CGI media models, and now this. Maybe I better go back and watch that movie again....
~


(-by the by, I'd still like to find the soundtrack to this movie, if anyone has run across a copy-)

Damn yellowish incandescents. (2, Funny)

SeaFox (739806) | about 7 years ago | (#18525997)

Scientists at the MIT Media Lab have invented a way to reversibly silence brain cells using pulses of yellow light

Yet another reason CFLs are better!

Requires halorhodopsin gene (5, Interesting)

sshore (50665) | about 7 years ago | (#18526039)

According to the article, the yellow light "silences" neurons that have been engineered to include the halorhodopsin gene found in certain bacteria. The light doesn't have the same effect on the neurons that you'd typically find in your skull.

I'm not sure how this would be used clinically to treat epilepsy. Perhaps by introducing the genes into cells in the affected area using a retrovirus?

Re:Requires halorhodopsin gene (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | about 7 years ago | (#18526183)

Perhaps by introducing the genes into cells in the affected area using a retrovirus?

If you could do that then you could do lots of other useful things. How about engineering neurons to emit photons in the presence of an electric field and using the resulting stream of photons to model thought processes?

Yellow light? (1)

durin (72931) | about 7 years ago | (#18526045)


As in sunlight?

I think they should take a look outside for once.

Re:Yellow light? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18526223)

Actually, believe it or not, sunlight is blue. Incandescent bulbs are yellow, and Fluorescent bulbs are green.

Re:Yellow light? (1)

solevita (967690) | about 7 years ago | (#18526249)

Not to mention the fact that most people don't have holes in their head through which sunlight could enter. Although in the case of the OP, I'm not so sure.

Re:Yellow light? (2, Informative)

Goaway (82658) | about 7 years ago | (#18526811)

As far as it is possible to make any kind of statement about this, sunlight is white.

Bright guys (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18526057)

Aah, that's why the bright guys seem so stupid at times...

Bah, too slow (1)

GFree (853379) | about 7 years ago | (#18526071)

There are quicker ways to shut down the brain.

Playing 'Russian Roulette' with a semi-automatic pistol is one idea.

Useless (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18526075)

I don't see the point here. Shutting down light with brain would be more useful. And making it work with TV would be the must !

Test subjects (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18526083)

Maybe they could test this on the politicians in the US to see if it does work.
Actually This might not show as any difference!

Tin foil glasses (1, Funny)

Eudial (590661) | about 7 years ago | (#18526181)

Think of the applications! Time to get a pair of them tin foil glasses to accompany the hat.

But can it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18526221)

Finally help me get to sleep regularly?!? Please!!

Hal Jordan unavailable for comment... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18526229)

Can't believe you missed the follow up article:

OA (Reuters) - The Guardians of the Universe held a press conference today after scientists in the MIT Media Lab announced that neural activity could be suppressed through the usage of yellow light.

Spokesperson Tom Kalmaku stated, "It's charming to see that the scientists in Sector 2814 have finally caught on to something the rest of the Galaxy has known for the better part of the past three billion years. The Corps have had to deal with the effects of yellow light since it's inception. It's a very powerful frequency in the spectrum and is difficult to counteract."

Oa's Central Power Battery has been vulnerable to the effects of yellow for some time now and the Guardians have no means of defending against it. "In the past, we tried dipping the thing in a thin, transparent blue polymer once but it didn't seem to help any." said Kilowog when prompted on the subject.

MIT is very pleased with the discovery, but currently has no means available to implement this to the benefit of epileptics and Michael J. Fox.

Additionally, an anonymous follower of Dinshah P. Ghadiali's alternative Color Therapy medical techniques was also unimpressed by the news and simply stated, "Colored light? Effect the body? Duh!"

When contacted for comment, Hal Jordan was unavailable.

zombies..? (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18526293)

Ok, now all they have to do is make TVs do this and everyone will become like mindless zombies. oh, wait...

Three memes in one, whee (1)

FirienFirien (857374) | about 7 years ago | (#18526369)

So to disable the frikkin sharks with lasers, we just have to reverse the polarity of the flux capacitors?!

If yellow light shuts down brain cells... (5, Funny)

SethHoyt (1024709) | about 7 years ago | (#18526487)

Could this explain why when a traffic light turns yellow, nobody seems to notice it?

Re:If yellow light shuts down brain cells... (1)

hyfe (641811) | about 7 years ago | (#18526825)

If god wanted us to obey traffic lights, he would have written about it in the bible.

The traffic lights are not my gods!

Not new (1)

Graywolf (61854) | about 7 years ago | (#18526575)

I thought Hollywood had invented a way to shut down brains using light (and sound) a long time ago...

I read that wrong (1)

goraknotsteve (648117) | about 7 years ago | (#18526599)

After seeing the link on my RSS feed I wondered what MIT had against Brian and why they wanted to shut him down... Just as well I've read the article now

Everything is clear now (1)

octogen (540500) | about 7 years ago | (#18526627)

Now I know why all these other guys are driving around like braindead morons in their cars. Maybe I should stop using INDICATOR LIGHTS...
ROFL

All that glitters (1, Interesting)

abb3w (696381) | about 7 years ago | (#18526715)

So, does this also help explain the strange allure of gold throughout history, and the use of gold for religious ornamentation?

No news to me (1)

Big Nothing (229456) | about 7 years ago | (#18526741)

This is no news to me. The same thing happens when the light at the office hits my eyes every morning. Almost 0 brain activity.

Next: yellow lights in the Whitehouse & Congre (1)

mnemotronic (586021) | about 7 years ago | (#18526907)

Just think, shutting down the "brains" of the king and queens of america. As the article states:

"...inhibition is more direct than excitation, because you can shut down neural circuits ..."
Cool. We can turn off their brains. Turn them into mindless robots that pass the laws we want. They don't even have to be reasonable, or logical, or compassionate, just reactive religious zealots or irresponsible twits. Oh, wait. Somebody's already done it. damn.

With Light + *Genetic Engineering* (3, Informative)

Doc Ruby (173196) | about 7 years ago | (#18526957)

When neurons are engineered to express the halorhodopsin gene, the researchers can inhibit their activity by shining yellow light on them.


So not only would doctors have to get light inside the brain, they'd first have to genetically engineer the neurons to include and express the halorhodopsin gene. The right neurons: the ones that will later have Parkinson's Disease or whatever is being treated.

How are they going to guess which neurons? Which healthy person is going to let them genetically engineer their neurons? Those neurons are going to behave the same, though they're now expressing proteins that make them work like retinal cells?

Installing these shutdown hooks is a neat trick. But not for neurological medicine. Maybe for some biomechanics or biocomputation. Throwing genes into neurons for probing with light so violates our most absolutely personal spaces - inside our craniums and our genomes - that the cure is worse than the disease.
Load More Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Sign up for Slashdot Newsletters
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...