Researchers from Rice University, located in the US state of Texas, have implanted sensors in the head of a fly, allowing it to be controlled remotely and forced to carry out simple commands.
The flies performed certain actions within a second of sending the command to certain neurons in their brains. Thermal sensors were created in the neurons of the insect brain, which, being near a magnetic field, heated up and forced the fly to spread its wings or move away from the pathogen.
To test their system, the researchers kept the insects in a small enclosure next to a magnetic coil and watched them with overhead cameras. Indeed, when the magnetic field was turned on, the flies spread their wings in about half a second.
“For studying the brain or treating neurological disorders, the scientific community is looking for tools that are both incredibly accurate and minimally invasive,” said study author Jacob Robinson. - Remote control of individual neural circuits using magnetic fields is a kind of holy grail for neurotechnologies. In our work, we have taken an important step towards achieving this goal by increasing the speed of remote magnetic control and bringing it closer to the natural speed of the brain..."
The purpose of this study is to use this kind of technology to restore visual impairment by stimulating the area of the cerebral cortex responsible for this. Similar methods have already been used to control the movement of mice, and in the future, they may lead to better treatments for problems with mobility, the root causes of which are in the brain.
However, this study may have other implications. Experts say it could eventually be possible to develop a headset that would be able to read neural activity in one person's brain and then "write" it into another brain, essentially transmitting thoughts or feelings between people!
The results of the study were published in the world's leading scientific journal Nature Materials.