Will brain control (NOTE: Subscribers can still listen to this show) someday make us all obedient servants? In the quest to understand how the brain turns sensory input into behavior, scientists have used precisely-targeted lasers to take over an animal's brain, instruct it to turn in any direction they choose, and even to implant false sensory information, fooling the animal into thinking food was nearby.
They were able to take complete control of tiny, transparent worms by manipulating neurons in the worms' "brain." Will people be next? It would be tempting to use this for crowd control or warfare, but this may be a slippery slope down which we do not wish to travel.
Researcher Sharad Ramanathan says, "If we can understand simple nervous systems to the point of completely controlling them, then it may be a possibility that we can gain a comprehensive understanding of more complex systems. This gives us a framework to think about neural circuits, HOW TO MANIPULATE THEM, which circuit to manipulate and what activity patterns to produce in them. "
By manipulating the neural system of this animal, we can make it turn left, we can make it turn right, we can make it go in a loop, we can make it think there is food nearby. We want to understand the brain of this animal, which has only a few hundred neurons, completely and essentially turn it into a video game (NOTE: Subscribers can still listen to this provocative show!) where we can control all of its behaviors."
The end result was a system capable of not only controlling the worms' behavior, but their senses as well. In one test, the researchers were able to use the system to trick a worm's brain into believing food was nearby, causing it to make a beeline toward the imaginary meal.
Now if only they could laser our brains so that we'd think we'd already EATEN, we might be more enthusiastic, but meanwhile, we think these tests could have ominous results. Meanwhile, stick with the BEST diet book you can get, which is the LEAST EXPENSIVE as well, especially since we've reduced it from $5 to $3 so that YOU can reduce too!