Big in Japan: Japanese mad scientists are at it again

Disclaimer: This post is about science, which I know isn’t exactly one of the zaniest stories on Gadling at the moment. However, I can assure you in plain and simple laymen’s terms that this post will be really, really cool to read.

One of the greatest parts of living in Japan is that you’re usually the first person out of all your friends back home to get their hands on the latest electronics.

For instance, I regularly rock out touch-screen digital cameras, handheld GPS units and cell phones that make the IPhone look about as advanced as a VCR.

Indeed, high technology is a fact of life here in Japan – toilets wipe your butt for you, and ATMs thank you in a sexy voice for making a transaction.

So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that mad scientist-inspired research regularly splashes across the headlines here in Japan.

Case in point – last week in Japan, researchers were successfully able to implant a small camera inside a mouse’s brain to see how memory is formed.

Even if you’re not a scientist, you have to admit – that is pretty awesome!

Want to know more? Sure you do…

As I said before, neurobiology isn’t exactly the easiest of disciplines to understand, so I will try to explain everything in layman’s terms. Wish me luck!

First question: why would the Japanese want to take images of a mouse’s memories?

The hope is that one day, this research will facilitate our ability to treat Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases (in humans of course!) by better understanding the brain activity that triggers these conditions.

Second question: how small of a camera do you need to film mice memories?

According the study published in the Journal of Neuroscience Methods, which I can assure you is a gripping read, the team used a camera 3 mm long, 2.3 mm wide and 2.4 mm in depth. If you don’t understand metric, trust me – that’s really small!

Third question: how do you film a mouse being nostalgic about the past.

First of all, you need to implant a camera inside the hippocampus of the mouse’s brain. Next, you need to inject the mouse with a special substance that lights up whenever there is brain activity. Then, you just sit back and wait as the camera captures the light and displays the image on a screen.

Makes sense? Hope so!

Anyway, I know science can be like, all technical and stuff, but hopefully this little foray into neurobiology wasn’t too difficult.

After all, this really is groundbreaking research that will hopefully one day result in a treatment for some of the most debilitating neurological diseases known to man.

So, at this point in the article, I have one last thing to say:

“Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”

“I think so Brain, but me and Pippi Longstocking… I mean, what would the children look like?”

(That one was for all the Animaniacs fans out there!)

** Mice and brain images were courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons Project. Pinky is a trademarked and licensed character from the 1990s TV show ‘Animaniacs.**