Mice do not, so far as we know, practice meditation. yet in order to study how in which activity affects human brains at the cellular level, researchers at the University of Oregon managed to put murine brains into a somewhat equivalent state. Their experiments, reported in March inside the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggest fresh ways of investigating how a person’s brain can constantly reshape itself.
Past studies have suggested in which people who meditate tend to have more white matter in in addition to around the anterior cingulate cortex, a part of the brain involved in regulating emotions. Meditation also seems to intensify theta-wave activity, a type of rhythmic electrical pulsation often associated that has a state of calm. Psychologists at Oregon speculated in which the surge in theta waves stimulated the production of cells inside the white matter. yet they needed to develop an animal design of in which activity; they obviously couldn’t examine the living brain tissue in meditating humans.
So the psychologists asked colleagues inside the university’s neuroscience department if they could increase theta-wave activity in mice, which were already being used to study brain states in addition to neural plasticity, or the brain’s ability to rewire itself. Could the neuroscientists create a comparable effect in mice?
Yes, the idea turned out, using a brain-research technique known as optogenetics, which uses light to turn on in addition to off neurons, in addition to mice in which have been bred with specific genes responsive to light. The Oregon group, by pulsing the light at the same frequency found in human theta waves (eight hertz), were able to switch on the neurons inside the anterior cingulate cortexes of the mice. They also exposed some mice to light at higher in addition to lower frequencies in addition to left others alone.