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Driving Brain Rhythm Makes Mice More Touch-Sensitive

Update Date: Aug 25, 2014 10:50 AM EDT
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By striking up the right rhythm in the right brain region at the right time, researchers managed to endow mice with greater touch sensitivity than other mice, according to a new study. 

The findings of the study are the first direct evidence that  "gamma" brainwaves in the cortex affect perception and attention. 

"There's a lot of excitement about the importance of gamma rhythms in behavior, as well as a lot of skepticism," said co-lead author Joshua Siegle, a former graduate student at Brown University and MIT, who is now at the Allen Institute for Neuroscience, in the press release. "Rather than try to correlate changes in gamma rhythms with changes in behavior, which is what researchers have done in the past, we chose to directly control the cells that produce gamma."

The result was a mouse with whiskers that were about 20 percent more sensitive, the press release added.

 "There were a lot of ways this experiment could have failed but instead to our surprise it was pretty decisive from the very first subject we looked at-that under certain conditions we can make a super-perceiving mouse," said Christopher Moore, associate professor of neuroscience at Brown and senior author of the study. "We're making a mouse do better than a mouse could have done otherwise."

The study has been detailed in the journal Nature Neuroscience. 

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