They Live With Their Own Mind Control” width=”560″/>
If you watched V and They Live in the ’80s, you know that aliens are masters of mind control. Which is why you also know that even if the new V‘s Anna isn’t Diana, it’s just a matter of time before she gives some Earthling an “attitude adjustment” — perhaps in the form of a subliminal television message. What you might not know is that lately, humans have developed some mind control methods of their own.
Gero Miesenböck and his colleagues at the University of Oxford were able to manipulate fruit flies by exploiting their fear of pain, even if the pain was only in their minds. By stimulating specific brain cells with a flash of laser light, the researchers gave the flies fake memories of a painful experience and, says Miesenböck, “These memories cause a lasting modification of the flies’ behavior.” Perhaps the laser light showed the flies images of a formaldehyde face — that was enough to give Nada the creeps.
Studies already established that fruit flies can learn to avoid a smell if they associate it with an electric shock. But Meisenbock wondered if they would learn the same thing when their brains only behaved as if they’d been exposed. When the flies flew near a certain smell, his team used a laser beam to trigger dopamine release in twelve specific neurons. It worked: The flies steered clear of the scent.
If flies can be brainwashed into preferring one scent over another, why can’t a person be brainwashed to change where his or her loyalties lie? For one thing, the scientists’ method — optogenetics — isn’t exactly what Diana called conversion. The flies were genetically modified so their neurons would fire when lit up by a laser. Having to genetically engineer those you plan to convert while waging a covert war probably isn’t worth the trouble. But, by allowing researchers to control brain activity with the flash of a light signal, it has taken mind control to a new level. As Miesenböck says, “It’s more powerful to seize control of the relevant brain circuits and produce these states directly.”
That’s not to say there won’t be a day when scientists replace their smell chamber with a conversion chamber or a local TV station. Professor Miesenböck believes humans form memories in the same way fruit flies do. “I would be surprised if the way humans learn from mistakes turned out to be fundamentally different from the way flies learn from mistakes.” They just need to find a way to get in the human head. Hint: “WATCH TELEVISION.”
The idea that V‘s Visitors would need to discredit our scientists to win their mind war makes even more sense today. If the series comes back in another twenty years, the joke might be on them. The aliens will come in peace and end up being served as the main course during our banquet. Giant lizards are, after all, a healthy meat alternative.
Whether our alien invaders will use They Live‘s subliminal messaging or V‘s conversion chambers to enslave the human race remains to be seen. But with Miesenböck’s advances, we now have a weapon of our own in the forthcoming mind wars. And let me tell you, it smells like success.Read More