Scientists learning how to ‘teleport’ brains with lasers in groundbreaking study

The brain can be made to "teleport" by pointing laser beams at it, a study has claimed.

Neuroscientists from University College London have been experimenting on mice in a bid to find out more about the "hidden workings of memory" and how a person's "inner GPS" works.

The study, which was published in the journal Cell, explained that laser beams can be directed into the hippocampus, the area responsible for memory and learning to stimulate neurons called "place cells".

Place cells become active when a sentient being, such as an animal or a human, enters a new environment and stores the location in its memory, the Daily Telegraph reports.

Scientists decided to put the mice in one location and give them a reward of sugar water.

The creatures were then moved somewhere else, and laser beams were then used to activate the place cells that were storing the memory of the first location.

Scientists were able to reactivate, or retrieve, the memory of the location when the mice were given a reward, which saw the animals "mentally teleported" back to the first location.

The study revealed that the mice attempted to find the sugar water, as they believed they were in the first location, not the second.

The results provide a deeper understanding of how memories are stored, and the UCL scientists believe the findings could eventually help us develop new therapies for conditions such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, which affect memory.

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First author Dr Nick Robinson (UCL Wolfson Institute for Biomedical Research) said: “These results provide direct causal evidence that mice use the information represented by place cell activity to guide their behaviour.

"In other words, place cells really do tell the mouse where it is, and mice actually ‘listen’ to their place cells when they make decisions. This provides new insights about how memories are stored in the brain, as well as new tools for manipulating these memories to influence behaviour.”

He added: “Disorders of memory – such as in dementia and Alzheimer’s – represent a huge cost to society. This work may eventually lead to a better understanding of these diseases, as well as new targets for therapeutic intervention.”

Senior author Professor Michael Hausser (UCL Wolfson Institute for Biomedical Research) said: "This study is a game-changer as it shows that we can use optical reading and writing of activity in specific neurons to manipulate memories, allowing us to better understand – and potentially improve – how neural circuit activity helps us to make decisions.”

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