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Science

Submission + - Scientists use Quake 2 to study the brains of mice (nature.com)

An anonymous reader writes: In this week's issue of Nature, scientists from Princeton University trained mice to navigate around in a virtual environment, using a setup that resembles a combination of a giant trackball and a mini-imax theater displaying a virtual world rendered using a modified version of the Quake 2 open source game engine. Holding the mouse's head still atop this giant trackball, the mouse can run on the ball and they use the rotations to move the mouse around in the virtual environment, and when he reaches certain places he gets a reward. Because they are able to hold the head still, they can stick microscopic glass electrodes into individual neurons in the hippocampus of this mouse as it "navigates". They find the neural activity that resembles activity during real life navigation, and learned new things about the inputs and computations that are going on inside these neurons which weren't known before.

No word as of yet whether the scientists plan on giving the mice control of the gun. Wonder whether John Carmack ever envisioned this when he opened up the Quake code?

nature article)
http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v461/n7266/edsumm/e091015-01.html

wired has a story with video, though not of the mazed used in the paper
http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2009/10/mouse-virtual-reality/
as does gizmodo) http://gizmodo.com/5381828/real-mouse-navigates-quake-2-using-a-trackball#comments
engadget) http://www.engadget.com/2009/10/15/mice-run-through-quake-princeton-neuroscientists-scan-their-bra/
switched)http://www.switched.com/2009/10/15/gaming-mice-help-scientists-study-brains/

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