Unlike Neuralink and other neural implants, the study suggests it’s possible to control the brain without surgery or implants. All you need is light.
Optogenetics uses light of different frequencies to control the brain. It’s a brilliant mind-meld of basic neurobiology and engineering that hijacks the mechanism behind how neurons naturally activate—or are silenced—in the brain.
Thanks to optogenetics, in just ten years we’ve been able to artificially incept memories in mice, decipher brain signals that lead to pain, untangle the neural code for addiction, reverse depression, restore rudimentary sight in blinded mice, and overwrite terrible memories with happy ones. Optogenetics is akin to a universal programming language for the brain.
But it’s got two serious downfalls: it requires gene therapy, and it needs brain surgery to implant optical fibers into the brain.
This week, the original mind behind optogenetics is back with an update that cuts the cord. Dr. Karl Deisseroth’s team at Stanford University, in collaboration with the University of Minnesota, unveiled an upgraded version of optogenetics that controls behavior without the need for surgery. Rather, the system shines light through the skulls of mice, and it penetrates deep into the brain. With light pulses, the team was able to change how likely a mouse was to have seizures, or reprogram its brain so it preferred social company.
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