Princeton's David Tank just published a paper in Nature describing how he used the open-source Quake 2 engine to power a VR maze that he ran mice through in order to study their neurons while they moved. My wife, who played Quake on the British national team, wants to teach the mouse to rocket-jump.
Tank's team designed an apparatus in which a mouse, its head firmly held in a metal helmet, walks on the surface of a styrofoam ball. The ball is kept aloft by a jet of air, so that it functions like a multidirectional treadmill. Around it are sensors taken from optical computer mice, which read the ball's movement as the mouse runs.
Those readings were the input for the researchers' virtual reality software -- a modified version of the open source Quake 2 videogame engine, tweaked to project an image on a screen surrounding the mouse. Tank called it "a mini-IMAX theater."
Mice in the study ran through a virtual maze designed in the open source Quake game editor, but rather than earning points or power-ups, they were rewarded with sips of water from a head-side nozzle.
Into the hippocampus of each mouse the researchers inserted a glass capillary just one micron wide at its tip and filled with salt water. Known as a whole-cell patch recorder, it detects electrical currents as they pulse through individual cells.
"It is difficult to overstate the importance of understanding how the dynamics of electrical activity within single neurons is related to firing patterns among collections of neurons that accompany the performance of complex tasks," wrote Douglas Nitz, a University of California at San Diego cognitive scientist, in a commentary accompanying the findings.
A better understanding how a sperm swims its way toward an egg could help inform new treatments for male infertility. Researchers from the University of York have now come up with a mathematical formula to model how large numbers of moving sperm interact with fluid they’re swimming through. From the University: By analysing the head […]
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What could be more fun than a slingshot that shoots tiny airplanes? A slingshot that shoots tiny glowing airplanes of course! These toy planes are outfitted with ultra-bright LEDs, so you can fly all night without losing them in the trees.Whether you are a regular-sized child, or an overgrown adult one, these light-up flyers offer […]
You know the drill. You go to the dentist and they ask you how often you floss. You lie through your teeth and say, “every day!” (Bonus points if you have some cilantro or chives stuck in your gums from lunch). You don’t want to keep up the charade any longer, but rubbing that tiny strand […]
The Raspberry Pi Foundation has done outstanding work packing a fully capable desktop computer into a package the size of a deck cards—especially one that only costs $35. But if you already have a working laptop, why should you care? Oh, how much you have to learn. Besides operating well as a compact digital media hub, […]