When it comes to studying human consciousness, techniques can range from the objectively scientific to the pseudo-scientific to the very abstract. After all, the complex processes happening inside the human brain are very hard to observe and define. But researchers experimenting with the molecular biology of mice--whose cognitive function and nervous system physiology is quite similar to our own--have located the brain's trigger for aggression in mice, unlocking a series of seriously interesting insights into our own minds.
At the center of these findings is a cluster of cells in the hypothalamus, specifically in the ventromedial hypothalamus (VMH), an area that previous studies have associated with sexual behaviors (for a longer, more detailed account, we highly recommend clicking through to SciAm's story on this). With the help of a "sexually experienced" male mouse that is also known for being quite territorial, a team of CalTech researchers was able to get a firm scientific grip on the role of the VMH in aggression as well as sexual behaviors.
That may sound somewhat intuitive, but the way it came about is perfectly fascinating, mainly because the researchers found that while the urges to fight and to mate come from the same part of the brain, they come from intermingled yet separate clusters of neurons in the VMH. Overlap was only something like 20 percent.
The researchers made this discovery by inserting electrodes near the VMH and listening in during several mouse-to-mouse encounters. In some cases, they would introduce a sexually receptive female into their test subject's cage, at which point mating would ensue. In other instances, they would introduce another male, leading to violence. And they found that generally the brain can make love or make war, but it can't really do both at the same time; there is an interplay between the two actions, but for the most part different neurons light up for each activity (and the neurons that initiate the other are suppressed).
But even more interestingly, the researchers found that aggression is triggered by a specific tangle of neurons. By inserting a bunch of custom-made viruses carrying a modified piece of DNA into the mouse's brain, the researchers were able to make this region photosensitive to blue light. In other words, the researchers could now turn it on and off like a switch. With their blue light switched on, the researchers found that no matter what they put in the cage or what kind of threat it represented--another male mouse, a female mouse, an anesthetized mouse, a dummy--their test subject would attack indiscriminately.
The opposite also held. By silencing that nerve cluster, the researchers could render their mouse non-aggressive, even in the presence of a threatening male.
The point being, aggression and the violence it often spawns seems to be controlled by a specific cluster of neurons. This of course has implications for human behavior as well, helping to explain sudden explosions of aggression and violence that seem to be triggered by nothing at all. It could explain why some people can control themselves, and others fly off the handle--occasionally with disastrous or tragic results. Click through below for a more thorough explanation of the science behind this, we promise it's not too long a read.
I don't know about people, but this would definitely make dog training much easier.
why learn from your own mistakes, when you could learn from the mistakes of others?
So the rage virus is real now.
Oddly, Serenity had a planet that they made everyone with active love, a few ended up reversed while the majority (Peaceful peeps) died, somehow this seems to be happening before we can find a planet to segregate the rest of our population away, wait for the planet peeps :D, having flesh eating zombies is less a problem if they are out in the dark space.
Exactly what I was thinking! Although, enlsaving 3rd world countries will be easier for the US now. The people either calm down, or kill each other, anyway, US wins. Although I am living in a different country.
some parts of a researchers life few understand, watching mice have sex....
also since mice have cognitive function and nervous system physiology quite similar to our own, do they have fetishes?
mice into S&M?
@sacridias - The drug was called "Pax" (Latin for Peace), and the planet that was tested was named "Miranda". The people who survived the overdosing of the Pax drug eventually became known as Revers, who indeed knew nothing but rage.
About as close to a Zombie Apocalyptic scenario as you can get, boy I miss that show!
Well I don,t know the idea sounds pleasant at first glance but as some have said this could go out of control in humans in that it could be used in a dark way to control people or this virus could spread and cause problems making people violent or not able to fight back like in many movies and tv series but if this dose spread I think this virus may not effect some at all and the virus may also dissipate because what does the virus get from doing this? it does not get food its not exactly the best survival tactic the virus may change over time and not even deal with the aggression part of the brain and how fast virus,s can change it would possibly over very quick.
I don't know if i'd be concerned about it being released as a large scale virus but it could pose some interesting opportunities. For example. What if there is someone locked up for assault. What if they could be given the option of serving behind bars, or doing community service which in theory would be cheaper and actually benefitial to the community at large. This would be akin to when pedophiles have the option of being castrated. I just think that with our prisons overflowing it makes more sense to have non-aggressive people cleaning the streets than aggressive ones locked away pumping iron until they get released.
They should seriously try to use this research to make a drug or something that could be used for people. This would really help people who have disorders that bring rage such as bipolar and more. It could also help hostile people in general.
There was a movie like this, I think based on a Stephen King story, where someone had figured out a drug to "cure" aggression. It was released into the world's water supply and the water cycle (via volcano, for some reason) and there was world peace. Then they discovered it causes Alzheimer's, but it was too late to do anything about it, so the entire world's population died out after losing their mental functions.
Anyway, this is cool. I just hope they make sure to thoroughly test all side effects before using it on humans seriously.
-IMP ;) :)
If it where possible to be used in a temporary method. Our jails would be a lot less aggressive and we might have less deaths and less expenses in these facilities.
@ajohnson1986 : I'm sorry, but, I cannot agree with you. Pedophiles still should be castrated, only,by not the penis removed, but the head, and put on spikes.
I would seem to me that aggression, at least in humans would be directly related to competitiveness, which is in turn related to our motivation to do thing.
To an extent, aggression within a species is needed. Though, I am no scientist, so perhaps I am wrong.
The Pax? No thank you. We've got enough problems without feral, flesh-eating, sociopaths roaming the 'verse.
Wow, we could really use this toggle switch you know. If only it's not as hard as psychoanalysing people.
Wait, I thought the soul is what gave people their character traits. That's why the soul is judged in the afterlife... could it be that the brain is fully reducible to just physical material... now why would all those nice people mislead us into fear for all those millenia...?
@Igot1forya, I like that show too, “Firefly ". I have all the episodes. It is disappointing that the show ended as quickly as it did. Besides the drug PAX, what about the drug that was suppose to cure cancer 100% from the movie, “I am legend ". Seems not all humans react the same way to medicines..... I just did a google search of the population today, " 6,980,536,571-climbing ". I have my doubts if all humans would react the same way to ONE medicine.
I just wanted to clarify what I said in my earlier comment. I think there should be a drug for people who exhibit high levels of aggression.
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