The film dates back to 2004. Today, such images are taken in a real cell and molecular biology lab at the University of Berkeley, California, with real brains – of mice, fortunately. In the spring of 2018, Alan March 2019 Calendar Canada and his colleagues in the journal Nature Neuroscience described a method by which they can remotely turn on and off any neuron group by targeting individual neurons. If each of our memories, every thought, every emotion is created by activating a particular neural network in the brain, such interventions would allow us to control our mental world in the long term.
March 2019 Calendar Canada
For the time being, the surgery was done on mice alone to test the method. The research brings together several technological advances in physics and biology in recent years. The device that takes control of the neurons is a laser system controlled by a holographic computer program. The user defines the 3-D coordinates of, for example, 50 neurons that he wants to activate or deactivate.
The holographic program then directs the laser beams to focus through the living brain tissue to the 50 points defined in the 3-D matrix. It uses a two-photon pacing technique that can focus energy throughout the cerebral cortex without heating the surrounding tissue. In a word, the laser energy focuses exclusively on the 50 targeted nerve cells.
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Neurons with on-off switch
Previously, the neurons of the experimental animal are genetically engineered to make them activatable. The appropriately modified mouse then has a gene that provides all its neurons with photosensitive molecules. If they are hit by the holographic laser, they change their chemical structure: In the membranes, the neuron walls, small holes form, through which ions can penetrate and generate electrical current. The neuron will then be in the same active state as when it is naturally activated.
Researchers have also created molecules that can cause strong electrical currents in neurons as soon as the light of a particular wavelength hits them. Such molecules, called opsins, are already naturally present in many organisms. In mammals, they are called rhodopsins: they are stuck in the neurons of our retina, transforming light into electricity and thus sending messages to the brain.
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However, natural opsins are not enough to control all neurons in the brain, because they do not respond quickly and strongly enough. Mardinly and his colleagues have genetically engineered them so that they respond to infrared light and more quickly.
Cells light up when they become active
And this is how it works: the video presented by the lab shows how the holographic laser activates a part of the cerebral cortex of a mouse that is a quarter of a cubic millimeter in size.
The activated neurons contained therein shine March 2019 Calendar Canada because they release calcium ions that fluoresce due to an additionally introduced substance. In other words, the neurons light up when they become active. And thanks to the same microscopy technique used in their activation, they can be perfectly located.