A team of researchers at the University of Buffalo has used magneto-thermal stimulation to control the movements of mice.
These results were achieved working with mice that had been genetically engineered such that targeted neurons would produce ion channels sensitive and even receptive to temperature. Nanoparticles consisting of a cobalt-ferrite core coated in manganese ferrite were injected into the brain, attaching themselves to neurons.
Applying an alternating magnetosphere causes the magnetization of these nanoparticles to switch back and forth, raising their temperature. As a result, the ion channels open up, causing the associated neurons to fire.
“There is a lot of work being done now to map the neuronal circuits that control behavior and emotions,” said Professor of Physics Arnd Pralle, the lead researcher. “The technique we have developed could aid this effort greatly.”
Techniques like transcranial magnetic stimulation already allow us to tinker with the brain, and research has shown that Optogenetics can be used to make major changes to the behavior of mice in a lab setting. However, magneto-thermal stimulation is considered less invasive than these other methods. No evidence of brain damage was found in the mice used during testing.
The researchers hope to expand their studies by figuring out how to stimulate multiple parts of the brain at the same time.