Obama's 2013 'BRAIN' initiative results in remote-controlled mice

The first results to stem from President Barack Obama's 2013 "Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies" initiative are in, Reuters reports. As noted in the journal Neuron, scientists were able to manipulate the brain circuitry of lab mice, making them move, stay still, eat or leave their bowls of food behind. This was accomplished through the use of DREADDs, "designer receptors exclusively activated by designer drugs." The DREADDs system uses genetically engineered brain neurons to create custom receptors that lock into manmade molecules, activating whichever neuron scientists target. The DREADD method is a noninvasive form of behavior control, first introduced about a decade ago as a way to turn neurons on or off -- the newest DREADDs are the first to be able to do both.

Researchers hope to better understand the brain wiring behind certain behaviors, with the goal of eventually creating therapies to treat some neurological conditions. This marks a shift away from seeing these illnesses as "chemical imbalances," and more as cases of miswiring or misfiring neurons, Reuters reports. The BRAIN initiative as a whole hopes to uncover the sources of Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, schizophrenia, depression, PTSD and other still-mysterious brain disorders.