Researchers have created a technology that uses light to stimulate neurons to produce virtual tastes. The method was successfully used on flies, allowing them to consume bland gelatinous ooze while experiencing a sweet taste.
Scientists from the Champalimaud Foundation in Portugal combined two high-tech components to create the instrument optoPAD. The first is optogenetics, a potent technique that employs light to regulate neuronal activity and turn on or turn off neurons. Because access to green light triggered the flies’ sweet-sensing neurons, they were more attracted to the bland food in the studies.
Another technology known as flyPAD that was initially created in the lab makes up the second component of the optoPAD. The flyPAD monitors the fly’s feeding activity using touchscreen technology. FlyPAD can recognise when a fly hits food, similar to how your phone can recognise when your finger touches the screen, according to Jose-Maria Moreira, a researcher published in the journal eLife.
Researchers used both flyPAD and optogenetics to figure out how to control how people perceive tastes, which is one of the most difficult parts of studying how people eat.
Contrary to aural and visual data, which can both be instantly changed, animals only perceive taste information when they deliberately touch the food with their tongues or probosci, contrasting to auditory or visual input, which can be altered instantly and independently of the animal’s behaviour. To ensure that they optogenetically alter the flavour of the food precisely when the fly is in contact with it, Moreira stated that with optoPAD, they are continually watching the behaviour of the fly.
This study demonstrates how the optoPAD can successfully connect active feed with optogenetic treatments and how the flies’ behaviour is influenced by these virtual tastes in a very real way.
For example, by optogenetically activating sweet-sensing neurons, they can make the fly eat excessively, or by optogenetically activating bitter-sensing neurons, they can make the fly stop eating altogether, no matter how hungry it is.
The researchers want to employ optoPAD to fundamentally improve human existence even though it appears to be a great approach to boost nutrition without sacrificing taste.
Carlos Ribeiro from the Champalimaud Center stated that “the food one eats influences many areas of existence, including ageing, capacity for reproduction, lifespan, mental condition, and mood. How the brain decides what to eat, though, is still a mystery. The optoPAD can assist us in locating the genes and neurons that may directly affect the future health and nutrition, Ribeiro added.