The Next Big Thing

The technique, called optogenetics, hasn’t been tried yet in people, and treatments that work well in mice and other lab animals often fail in humans. But the researchers have found they can instantly modify animals’ behavior, suppress memories and lay bare the biological underpinnings of psychiatric disorders — all by illuminating neurons primed with light-sensitive proteins.

Source: Wall Street Journal.

Comments (10)

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  1. Buster says:

    This has ramifications for those suffering from depression, post-traumatic stress syndrome, poor anger management, and years of childhood abuse.

    But, there is also a sinister aspect. What if, rather than treat all of the above psychological problems, medical experts could treat low ambition, anger at government, self-reliance and the desire to personally get ahead? What if medical science could turn Americans into worker-bee drones who happily work to support the ballooning Welfare State with little regard for personal accumulation?

  2. Andrew O says:

    Buster, I think that you are jumping ahead. Of course, most people fear technology and science as means to control the “mass”. However, these findings will be used for medical purposes for already established psychological illness and disorder, assuming the breakthrough materializes with human subjects. The fears alluded will be more dependent on how civic engagement allows for these breakthrows to be used by government for controlling purposes. The government can potentially have these desires but it all comes back to how much the “mass” is willing to empower itself. For now, I think this could be tremendously beneficial for our society without the sinister risk in the horizon.

  3. Chelsea says:

    I’ve never been a huge fan of chemical alterations to the brain to treat any type of condition, most especially if it means altering your behavior and personality. Perhaps a more “natural” approach that requires less interaction and utilization of exterior components might be a more viable solution to many who might ever need it..

  4. Dug says:

    Very encouraging for personal disorders and societal ramifications…

  5. Henry says:

    “People are using this to turn on and off all sorts of parts of the brain,” said bioengineer Edward Boyden, head of the synthetic neurobiology group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who helped invent the technique with neuro-psychiatrist Karl Deisseroth at Stanford University in 2005. “You can play the brain like a piano.”

    Sounds a bit scary to me.

  6. Annie says:

    Very revolutionizing. Innovations like this keep me on my toes on what other advances we may expect in the near future..

  7. Neil Caffrey says:

    “researchers have found they can instantly modify animals’ behavior”

    – Maybe optogenetics does work on humans. I know there’s some kind of movement among younger people that use glow sticks at concerts. I’m sure the “lights” have some kind of effect on behavior.

  8. Evan Carr says:

    That’s funny Neil! I think the science behind this is probably very interesting but I tend to agree with what Chelsea said. Just like we don’t need to medicate more for society’s ills, do we really need to alter the function of the brain with this new high-tech proteins. With something like this, I wonder what the long-term, 20 or 30 year effects will be.

    I’d definitely be afraid of government using this technology for the worst. It kind of reminds me of an episode of Conspiracy Theory with Jesse Ventura when he investigates mind control technology emmitted through the airwaves from HAARP in Alaska. Cue the conspiracy theorists for this article…

  9. Life of Pi says:

    Wow, this is fascinating. Certainly this research work could have major influence in how modern society’s approach to psychotherapy. This in combo with cognitive therapy would be a welcoming combo in this field.

  10. Gabriel Odom says:

    This is amazing!! The technique requires a direct fibre-optic input into your brain, but still. Imagine a future where you can turn a dial on your wrist, and you immediately feel happy, or not hungry, or fear melts away, or you can focus better. This clearly would be decades away, but it’s exciting nonetheless.