Eureka!: Small Wonders

Stimulating the Brain With Magnetic Fields

Photo: Munshi et al., Elife

By Charlotte Hsu

In a new study, scientists used magnetic particles (highlighted in red) to activate clusters of cells inside the brains of mice, inducing specific animal behaviors that include running, rotating and freezing in place. While this may sound like an exercise in mind control, it’s actually an important advancement for human health, says UB physicist Arnd Pralle, who led the research. Pralle’s brain-stimulation technique involves heating the magnetic particles under an alternating magnetic field, which triggers activity in brain cells that researchers have engineered to be temperature sensitive. Such technology could lead to artificial ears and eyes, along with treatments for neurological diseases like Parkinson’s that involve malfunctioning brain cells.