One of the most recent developments in brain science and cognitive development has been gaining attention around the United States. Led by massive funding boosts from the federal government and the National Institutes of Health, the field of optogenetics has been progressing quickly.
Optogenetics involves controlling the brain with a combination of light and genetics, and this approach could be developed into a very impressive set of chemical tools that could control certain aspects of the brain’s command functions.
Imagine for a moment that scientists were able to control the genes that make a living thing angry, aggressive, or happy. Currently, pharmaceutical drugs are doing this, but what if the root of the cause (your genes) could be altered so that you felt a certain way or were able to do more with your brain, at a genetic level?
The leader of this revolution is Dr. Deisseroth of Stanford University.
His lab researches the use of opsins, which are proteins that have the ability to absorb protons and change their state. These are found naturally in our eyes, among other places.
These cells can be inserted into our brain cells and used to control certain brain functions with the flash of a light. Controlling the brain with light is the ultimate goal, and scientists have been able to accomplish this in the lab with fruit flies and lab rats so far.
This is the normal path for cognitive developments, and light control of the brain is developing well.
While scientists may be a long way to triggering you to become the Incredible Hulk with the flash from a flashlight, they are close to being able to alter the brain’s cells in relation to other sensations.
These include addiction, sleep, hunger, and the ability to move about.
This is truly an exciting time for cognitive development.