June 27, 2014
Social Interaction Controllable With Brain Circuit

Only possible to do in mice today. But in 20 or 30 years I bet humans will become manipulable in the same way.

A team of Stanford University investigators has linked a particular brain circuit to mammals' tendency to interact socially. Stimulating this circuit one among millions in the brain instantly increases a mouse's appetite for getting to know a strange mouse, while inhibiting it shuts down its drive to socialize with the stranger.

Will people manipulate themselves to become more or less social depending on circumstances? Turn off the desire to socialize when you want to get some solitary work done? Turn up the knob when you need to do a sales call or want to ask out a hottie at work?

Stimulating or suppressing dopamine-excreting cells in the ventral tegmental area made mice more or less inclined to engage in social interactions.

Deisseroth and his colleagues used mice whose dopamine-secreting, or dopaminergic, VTA nerve cells had been bioengineered to express optogenetic control proteins that could set off or inhibit signaling in the cells in response to light. They observed that enhancing activity in these cells increased a mouse's penchant for social interaction. When a newcomer was introduced into its cage, it came, it saw, it sniffed. Inhibiting the dopaminergic VTA cells had the opposite effect: The host lost much of its interest in the guest.

On the other hand, such manipulations of the VTA's dopaminergic cells had no effect on the mice's penchant for exploring novel objects (a golf ball, for example) placed in their cages. Nor did it change their overall propensity to move around. The effect appeared to be specific for social interaction.

I fully expect some governments to use future neural technologically to emotionally manipulate soldiers. One can also imagine corporations offering key employees free medical benefits to get implants that will, say, help sales people get into sales mode or scientists and engineers get into a mental state that optimizes their work.

If you could twist some knobs in your brain what would you to want to alter about your brain's state help get through the day and achieve goals?

Share |      Randall Parker, 2014 June 27 10:50 PM 

Wolf-Dog said at June 28, 2014 7:45 AM:

And religious governments will also be interested in such methods. We might as well replace the entire human brain with a computer altogether.

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