August 18, 2017
by Mike Wehner
Imagine someone remotely controlling your brain, forcing your body’s central processing organ to send messages to your muscles that you didn’t authorize. It’s an incredibly scary thought, but scientists have managed to accomplish this science fiction nightmare for real, albeit on a much small scale, and they were even able to prompt their test subject to run, freeze in place, or even completely lose control over their limbs. Thankfully, the research will be used for good rather than evil… for now.
The effort, led by physics professor Arnd Pralle, PhD, of the University at Buffalo College of Arts and Sciences, focused on a technique called “magneto-thermal stimulation.” It’s not exactly a simple process — it requires the implantation of specially built DNA strands and nanoparticles which attach to specific neurons — but once the minimally invasive procedure is over, the brain can be remotely controlled via an alternating magnetic field. When those magnetic inputs are applied, the particles heat up, causing the neurons to fire.
The study, which was published in the most recent edition of the journal eLife, includes experiments where were performed on mice. Using the new technique, the researchers were able to control the movement of the animals, causing them to freeze, lock up their limbs, turn around, or even run.
Despite only being tested on mice, the research could have far-reaching implications in the realm of brain research. The holy grail for dreamers like Elon Musk is that we’ll one day be able to tweak our brains to eliminate mood disorders and make us more perfect creatures. This groundbreaking research could very well be an important step towards that future.