Saturday, April 09, 2005

Frontiers of psych research

Will remote-controlled fruit flies advance our knowledge of human behavior? Via Newsday:
Yale University researchers say their study that used lasers to create remote-controlled fruit flies could lead to a better understanding of overeating and violence in humans.

Using the lasers to stimulate specific brain cells, researchers say they were able to make the flies jump, walk, flap their wings and fly.

Even headless flies took flight when researchers stimulated the correct neurons, according to the study, published in the April 7 issue of the journal Cell.

Scientists say the study could ultimately help identify the cells associated with psychiatric disorders, overeating and aggressiveness.
I think I know these scientists. Weren't they my lab partners in high school biology? They eagerly passed electric currents through frogs' legs, causing them to dance (and in one instance, jump to the ceiling, where they stuck for 36 seconds...long enough to earn detention for all of us.) It's nice to know that they have found a way to use their prodigous scientific talents for good, rather than for evil...

These experiments may reveal more about the behavior of those holding the remote controls, rather than their hapless, headless victims (er, subjects). Remember "Subservient Chicken?" One of our Eugene columnists wrote, "Last April, Burger King launched this silly bit of advertising featuring a guy in a chicken suit who appears to do your bidding. Just type in simple commands, click the "submit" button and watch him: jump, kneel, clean, fly, dance, even wag a finger should you request something naughty. Some of us are embarrassed by how long we found this amusing."
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