Good News! Scientists Make Progress on Mind Control

The roundworm caenorhabditis elegans is about 1 mm long when fully grown. Over time, scientists have mapped every cell in its body, including all 302 neurons in the brain and the approximately 5,000 connections between them. The brain is small enough that they're even able to control the worm's actions:

A team at Harvard University has built a computerized system to manipulate worms—making them start and stop, giving them the sensation of being touched, and even prompting them to lay eggs—­by stimulating their neurons individually with laser light, all while the worms are swimming freely in a petri dish. The technology may help neuroscientists for the first time gain a complete understanding of the workings of an animal’s nervous system.

The researchers control the worm by shooting lasers at it:

Because the worm’s body is transparent, sharply focused lasers, pointed with an accuracy of 30 microns, could turn on or suppress individual neurons with no need for electrodes or other invasive methods. Leifer placed a microscope on a custom-built stage to track the worm as it swam around in a d­ish. He also wrote software that analyzed the microscope’s images to locate the target neurons, then pointed and fired the lasers accordingly.

Link | Photo: University College, London

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Nice! Didn't know they came that far with c. elegans. They also control rats with electrodes implanted in the brain, but this non-invasive method is nice.
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