22 August 2017
Scientists Hack Rat Brains to Control Their Limbs – Making Them Run, Freeze and Turn Around at the Flick of a Switch
by Margi Murphy
Terrifying advance allows scientists to control movement after minor surgery which could go unnoticed.
PICTURE walking down a street and suddenly freezing up - with no control of your limbs - because a scientist is remotely controlling your brain.
The nightmarish scenario is now feasible, thanks to a terrifying scientific advance by US scientists.
Experts at University at Buffalo College of Arts and Sciences in New York successfully manipulated parts of the brain that control movement like freezing and spinning around, using an invisible magnetic field.
Thankfully, it's not been tested on humans... yet.
Instead, boffins used a process called magneto-thermal stimulation to control lab mice.
To "hack" the mice, they implanted heat-sensitive receptors into the animal's nerve cells and then injected tiny magnetic particles into the brain regions that control movement.
This allowed them to activate the brain without surgically implanting anything - echoing science fiction novels in which people are unwittingly controlled using state-of-the-art tech.
To manipulate their movements, the scientists created a magnetic field by placing electromagnets around the petri dish they were sitting in.
Different fields would flare up different receptors - and the mice appeared to freeze or spin on demand.
The astonishing findings were published in journal eLife, in which lead author and physics professor Arnd Pralle, PhD, wrote: "Magnetothermal genetic stimulation in the motor cortex evoked ambulation, deep brain stimulation in the striatum caused rotation around the body-axis, and stimulation near the ridge between ventral and dorsal striatum caused freezing-of-gait.
"The duration of the behaviour correlated with field application. "This approach provides genetically and spatially targetable, repeatable and temporarily precise activation of deep-brain circuits without the need for surgical implantation of any device."
The experiment might sound out of this world, but organisations have been researching brain control for several years.
Billionaire Elon Musk has made no secret of his passion for brain research and rumours suggests that he is looking into how to plug humans into a computer. He hinted that he might be working on "neural lace" - but no public announcements yet.
US military "brain hackers" recently invented an artificial nerve structure which will help computers become smarter than humans. The technology would be great for people suffering degenerative diseases because it would allow them to control bionic limbs. And where there's innovation, there's always a barrel of crooks to hijack it.
Cybercriminals could soon be able to hack your brainwaves to steal passwords and empty bank accounts, scientists have warned.