For a bunch of mind-controlled mice, walking into a magnetic field has never felt sooo good.
The imperceptible force that the genetically tweaked rodents wandered through fired up the reward-related circuits in their brains, likely conjuring the pure pleasure experienced when, for instance, they ate a yummy treat, researchers report Monday in Nature Neuroscience. Of course, this meant that the mice didn’t want to leave that happy magnetic field.
Ref: Genetically targeted magnetic control of the nervous system. Nature Neuroscience (7 March 2016) | DOI: 10.1038/nn.4265
Optogenetic and chemogenetic actuators are critical for deconstructing the neural correlates of behavior. However, these tools have several limitations, including invasive modes of stimulation or slow on/off kinetics. We have overcome these disadvantages by synthesizing a single-component, magnetically sensitive actuator, “Magneto,” comprising the cation channel TRPV4 fused to the paramagnetic protein ferritin. We validated noninvasive magnetic control over neuronal activity by demonstrating remote stimulation of cells using in vitro calcium imaging assays, electrophysiological recordings in brain slices, in vivo electrophysiological recordings in the brains of freely moving mice, and behavioral outputs in zebrafish and mice. As proof of concept, we used Magneto to delineate a causal role of striatal dopamine receptor 1 neurons in mediating reward behavior in mice. Together our results present Magneto as an actuator capable of remotely controlling circuits associated with complex animal behaviors.