Perhaps the tech is a long way off from being able to help humans, but University of Washington researchers have achieved a large brain breakthrough with mice.

    Researchers were able to isolate and 'modify' reactions from some neurons.

   According to UW Medicine, researchers were able to use lasers and what's called a holographic two-photon microscope to peer into the brain of a mouse, and identify and possibly 'modify' some areas that control behavior.

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They were able to identify and activate a small group of cells in the part of the brain known as the amygdala, which helps control behaviors.  According to UW Medicine:

"The discoveries made in the lab of Michael R. Bruchas, professor of pharmacology and of anesthesiology and pain medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine, might inform new treatments for substance-use disorders and an array of anxiety disorders.  

“The technology is entering the realm of sci-fi,” said study co-author Zhe Charles Zhou, a research scientist and engineer who operated the microscope. “When I was a grad student 10 years ago, I never would have imagined this.”

Researchers have been able to stimulate these neurons before but were not able to isolate and separate them based on their activity. They were not only able to watch reactions deep in the brain but also observe how the neurons behaved as a mouse ate sweet or bitter-tasting foods but also stimulate the same groups of neurons to alter the behavior of the mouse.

According to UW:

"The almond-shaped amygdala is one of the most important regions in the brain, largely responsible for keeping humans safe from danger over millions of years of evolution. It is believed to govern fear and other emotional responses by helping to distinguish real-world threats such as dangerous animals from fake ones, for instance, in horror movies. But it also appears to have an underappreciated role in processing reward stimuli."

Researchers are hoping that someday this tech can be used to treat people with mental health disorders, drug addictions, and other mental problems.


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