Researchers may be one step closer to creating zombies, at least in mice.
Using lasers, and studying brain circuitry behind the predatory instinct to kill, research has found different sets of neuron triggers do different things in mice.
By stimulating one set of neurons triggered the mice to pursue prey. Another set of neurons caused the animal to attack it, biting and killing. The technique used is called optogenetics, which artificially activates neurons using light. Scientists discovered they could use this to turn instincts on and off as they pleased.
Curiously, when the laser was off the animals behaved normally. When it was on they assumed “zombie” like qualities.
The lead author of the study, psychiatry researcher at the Yale University School of Medicine, Ivan de Araujo said, “We’d turn the laser on and they’d jump on an object, hold it with their paws and intensively bite it as if they were trying to capture and kill it.”
It was noted that the mice would only attack something that they could grab. He said, “It had to be something that could be grabbed and contained, something they want to capture and subdue. It’s not that they got out of control and tried to kill everything. It had to be something that looks like food to them.”
The study published in the journal Cell, detailed how they took control of instincts that involved predation. The mice used in the study were genetically engineered so that certain neurons were light sensitive enabling the experiment to work.
The scientists managed to identify two separate clusters of neurons. These are situated in the amygdale part of the brain which controls emotion and motivation. They discovered a link exists between this area and neurons in motor areas one of which links to the animal running and changing speed.
According to scientists, in a real life scenario prey would trigger the amygdale part of the brain inspiring the mice to the chase and kill.
It should be noted that the mice were alive during the experiment.