Stanford engineers developed an implantable device to stimulate nerves in mice. It's a internal remote-controlled LED chip that can make a mouse walk in circles, by using light to activate motor neurons in the animal’s brain, or peripheral nerves throughout its body. The technology is powered wirelessly using the mouse's own body to transfer energy.
The device has been described as a game-changer for neuroscientists working in the field of optogenetics, which uses light to control the activity of neurons. According to experts, the work - recently published on Nature Methods - opens the door to a range of new experiments to better understand and treat mental health disorders, movement disorders and diseases of the internal organs.
Small, implantable and wireless, it allows researchers to observe more natural mouse behavior, involving mice in enclosed spaces or interacting freely with other animals. Until now, researchers have relied on external devices to deliver light to a mouse’s brain and stimulate neurons.
In the image above, a mouse is standing on a chamber that stores and amplifies radio frequency energy at the exact wavelength that resonates in a mouse. The mouse becomes its own power conduit, channeling the energy from the chamber into its body, where it’s collected by a 2mm coil inside the chip.
This technology only works on special mice that have been bred or genetically altered to express tiny, light-activated proteins, called opsins, in their brains. Don't worry, scientists cannot (yet) use optogenetics to control human brain.