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Do Lasers Make You Squirm?

Posted January 20, 2011 10:18 AM by Steve Melito

Do lasers make you squirm? They might if you were a worm. Tiny and transparent, the roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans will stop, turn, or even lay an egg in response to laser light. That's the word from an international group of researchers who are using optogenetics to probe the neural circuits of this slender nematode.

"This tool allows us to poke and prod at those neurons in an animal as it's moving, and see exactly what each neuron does," explains Harvard's Andrew Leifer, the study's co-author, about the optogenetic technology named CoLBeRT. "The system is really remarkable," adds biological physicist William Rhu of the University of Toronto."

An hommage to the comedian Stephen Colbert, the technology CoLBeRT stands for "controlling locomotion and behavior in real time". First, a computer program directs a tiny beam of laser light at light-responsive neurons within the subject. As the worm's position changes, that information is returned to the application and the laser adjusted.

According to neuroengineer Ed Boyden of MIT, such research could enable scientists to determine how an animal's cells work together to determine behavior. That might be great if you want to study a kitten's response to a flashlight, but are there ethical applications for optogenetics in humans? For example, could neuroscientists learn lessons that might benefit miners or others who work in low-light conditions?

Source: Wired Science

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#1

Re: Do Lasers Make You Squirm?

01/20/2011 4:45 PM

Yeah, someone will now tell us the phenomenon can be harnessed to make even faster even smaller computers....
Del

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#2
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Re: Do Lasers Make You Squirm?

01/20/2011 4:57 PM

Oh, not only that, they will tell us they can make the faster and smaller computers behave!

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#6
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Re: Do Lasers Make You Squirm?

01/23/2011 5:23 PM

Lets make a transistor... Attach a wire to each end of the worm. Shine the laser on the middle... a biologic FET.

Bill

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#3

Re: Do Lasers Make You Squirm?

01/21/2011 1:40 AM

The worm turns when trod (or lights are switched) on...

http://www.phrases.org.uk/bulletin_board/22/messages/97.html

Bioramani

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#4

Re: Do Lasers Make You Squirm?

01/21/2011 6:16 AM

A good laser show might make you squirm with delight....

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#5
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Re: Do Lasers Make You Squirm?

01/21/2011 9:30 AM

It depends on the power of the laser?

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#7

Re: Do Lasers Make You Squirm?

01/23/2011 6:56 PM

Ultimately, these lasers shouldn't be making any humans squirm, because we are not translucent. afaict. And may be a tad too furry as well. Pointing no paws, of course.

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#8

Re: Do Lasers Make You Squirm?

01/25/2011 2:00 AM

My son Krishna, a biologist, tells me that this was pioneered about seven years back by Gero Miesenboeck with fruit flies.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EZ_f3Fc0ZRA

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