From the department of "I hope this never happens to me," scientists have used a laser to manipulate the behavior of a worm. First, a research team from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute genetically engineered a tiny, transparent worm called Caenorhabditis elegans to have neurons that give off fluorescent light. This allowed the neurons to be tracked during experiments. The scientists also engineered the neurons to be sensitive to light, which made it possible to activate them with pulses of laser light. Next, they built a movable table for the worm to crawl on, keeping it aligned beneath a camera and laser.
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They used the laser to activate a single neuron at a time. By doing so, they were able to control a worm's behavior and its senses. In tests, which the researchers published in the journal Nature, the laser made the worm turn left or right and move through a loop. The laser also tricked the worm brain into thinking food was nearby. The worm, in turn, wiggled toward what it thought was a meal.