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Manipulating A Cockroach Is Now Possible, Biologists Say

By Anna Amad | Oct 27, 2015 11:31 PM EDT

A group of biologists and researchers at Case Western Reserve University found a new discovery in mind controlling cockroaches. With their findings, motor skills such as changing its speed and direction can now be controlled via stimulating the neurons of the insect. 

Scientists have hand picked the neurons that are responsible for the insect's movement and found out that they can replicate its motor skills and control the cockroach at some extent through experimentation. This discovery is not only applicable to cockroaches, but it can also be applied to some other insects or animals as well.

"The central complex appears to be an area of the insect brain that monitors many forms of sensory information as well as the insect's internal state, and then influences various forms of movement," Roy Ritzmann, biology professor at Case Western Reserve said. 

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The breakthrough of the researchers opens up new possibilities in developing technologies in the field of robotics, drones and other self functioning devices and machines as they are able to find out what part of the brain can be used and stimulated to create a desired movement. "It's like a joystick on the animal," Joshua Martin said, a postdoctoral researcher in Ritzmann's lab. "We can control its direction and alter its speed."

But before the discovery, the team of scientists undergoes a tedious task of experimenting with the insect. They have used 27 samples and inserted them with wires within their central complex and monitored the neural activity for the duration of the experiment. They've also used a statistical model of the way neurons creates spikes to the recorded neuronal activity. When they applied electrical current to the  electrodes that record the activity, neurons were activated and the cockroach replicates its own movements.

The researchers are still conducting further experimentation and data gathering. This will unlock other possibilities in manipulating cockroaches so that they can one day integrate the same principles to other animals. 

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