Scientists Remotely Control Flies By hacking their brains

By: | July 28th, 2022

Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

A research team at Rice University, in collaboration with Brown University and Duke University, has developed a wireless hacking technology to hack the brains of fruit flies.

It can remotely control specific brain circuits in fruit flies within a second of the command

The team used genetic engineering to generate a unique ion channel that can be stimulated by heat. When the ion channel is activated, the flies spread their wings which is a mating gesture.

The researchers noticed that there was less than a half-second delay between the electromagnet activation and the wing spread.

How did the researchers manage to hack fly brains to make them remote-controlled?

To activate the heat-sensitive ion channel at will, the researchers injected iron oxide nanoparticles into the insects’ brains.

The nanoparticles could be heated by applying a magnetic field nearby. When the researchers activated the electromagnet, the electric field heated the nanoparticles which in turn activated the neurons and resulted in flies spreading their wings.

So, what’s next?

The team thinks that the ability to precisely activate cells will help study the brain. It can also be utilized to develop brain communication technology and treat brain-related disorders.

Nidhi Goyal

Nidhi is a gold medalist Post Graduate in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences.

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