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Making Of Killer Mice: Brain Stimulation Can Trigger Predatory Behaviors In Animals

Update Date: Jan 14, 2017 09:30 AM EST

A research revealed how timid rodents can be transformed into killer mice through the use of the optogenetics technique, which reveals the predatory behaviors in animals. Neurons are artificially activated using light the switch on and off the killer instinct.

Ivan de Araujo, the lead author of the experiment titled "Integrated Control of Predatory Hunting By The Central Nucleus Of The Amygdala," is a psychiatry researcher at the Yale University School of Medicine. He said that when they turn the laser on, the mice would jump on the object, hold it with their paws and bite as if they are trying to capture and kill it.

When the killer mice instinct is switched on, they pursue almost anything in their path such as inanimate objects and even insects.

However, the aggression displayed by the killer mice was only towards objects that were smaller than them. They did not display predatory behaviors toward the researchers or to fellow mice. Araujo said that it does not look like as if the mice were out of control, trying to kill everything in its path.

Optogenetics technique was used to pinpoint and take control of the neuron circuits responsible for the aggression. The mice in the research were genetically engineered, which means that specific groups of neurons were light-sensitive and can be switched on and off with a laser shining into the brain of the mice.

The result of the study shows where the predatory mechanisms in the brain are located. It links the jaw, shoulder and forelimb to create a fast and efficient pounce just like the killer mice. The team said that the predatory behaviour of the subjects was immediately interrupted when the laser is deactivated.

The study also shows that vertebrates use the central amygdala in the brain as a modular command system. The killer mice have a coordinated mechanism linking the brain to the jaws and limbs to deliver the one powerful bite.

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