To observe how mice’s brains react to swooping predators, researchers created VR goggles.

To observe how mice’s brains react to swooping predators, researchers created VR goggles.

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Cheyenne MacDonald

Unbelievably, researchers have spent years using virtual reality equipment to examine lab mouse brain activity. In the past, the mice have been surrounded by flat displays, which is obviously ineffective at creating a realistic environment. A Northwestern University team has now created tiny VR goggles that cover a mouse’s face and the majority of its body in an effort to make the experience more immersive. They were able to map the mice’s brain activity while simulating overhead threats for the first time thanks to this.

Miniature Rodent Stereo Illumination VR ( or iMRSIV ) is not a VR headset for humans that is strapped to the mouse’s head. Instead, as the mouse moves in place, the goggles are positioned in front of a treadmill, encircling its entire field of vision. The study’s co-first author, John Issa, stated that” we designed and built a custom holder for the goggles.” ” The screens and lenses of the entire optical display completely encircle the mouse.”

What a mouse sees inside the VR goggles

Northwestern University’s Dom Pinke

The mice appeared to adjust to the new VR environment more quickly than they did to previous setups, according to research conducted by the researchers. The team projected enlarging dark spots at the tops of the displays to simulate the presence of overhead threats, such as birds swooping in for a meal. According to co-first author Dom Pinke, how people respond to threats like this “is not a learned behavior, it’s an imprinted behavior.” The mouse’s brain is wired with it.

The mice’s outward physical reactions, such as freezing in place or speeding up, as well as their neural activity, were both captured by the researchers using this technique. To see what happens as the mice hunt insects, they might change the situation in the future and let them act as predators. On Friday, the journal Neuron published a paper on the method.

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