Lab mice were transformed into vigilant killers with the help of laser light.
A team of US researchers managed to document how hunting and killing instincts evolved in mammals with jaws by transforming several lab mice into killing machines. The team reportedly used a high-capacity laser and a special technique to stimulate two sets of neurons in a brain area called the amygdala.
Have you ever stopped to wonder how animals are capable of hunting their prey with such cunningness and precision? A team of scientists from the United States set out to find what ticks inside the animal’s brain when dinner time is close.
The experiment which revealed how hunting instincts evolved over several million years involved several lab mice, a high-capacity laser, and a technique optogenetics (using light to control cells in living tissue).
Ivan de Araujo, a professor of psychiatry who teaches at the Yale University, and the senior researcher who supervise the killer lab mice project, declared that the purpose of the study was to discover what changes took place several million years ago in the brain of animals who had jaws. The professor said that the key to understanding hunting instincts is how the brain is wired.
To test this assumption, de Araujo and his team of researchers began a series of lab-controlled experiments involving lab mice. Using a highly concentrated laser beam, the scientists stimulated two sets of neurons located in the rodents’ amygdala, a brain area usually associated with motivation and emotion.
The results were more than astonishing. After stimulating the neurons, the scientists managed to turn the lab mice into mean killing machines, which attacked anything in site. After stimulating those nerve centers, the scientists placed crickets inside the enclosure where the mice were being held.
Without flinching, the mice began to charge their prey and to take a bit out of them. Peculiar enough, even though the mice would attack everything inside the enclosure including inanimate objects such as bottle caps or paper clips, they did not attack each other.
The project’s lead scientist explained that this simple on and off switch they have developed would greatly help them in understanding what goes on inside a mammal’s brain when it is on the prowl. De Araujo also explained why mice need two sets of neurons to hunt its prey -the first set of neurons controls the animal’s posture, while the second one controls hunting-related actions such as biting and taking down the prey.
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