Scientists create virtual reality glasses for mice (and this is not an unnecessary luxury)

VR headsets have been around for a while now. Now American scientists have developed a small version intended for mice. This technology is relatively cheap and offers many new possibilities for future research.

Currently, laboratory VR systems are large, cumbersome installations that cost a lot of money. With this new research that was published in the magazine nervous cells, This is changing now. Daniel Dombeck is the scientist who led the research. “For the past 15 years, we have used systems in which mice are, as it were, surrounded by screens,” he says. You can compare this to watching television: you still see the couch and the environment around the screen.

Training is not necessary
These expensive systems require frequent training of the mice, because the laboratory mouse is still visible in the background. Without this training, they pay little attention to what is shown on the screens. All this means that it is not always possible for a researcher to use such a system: it is expensive and takes a lot of time before the research can begin.

The new invention is named Mini Rodent VR Stereo Lighting, In other words iMRSIV. The big news is that iMRSIV He doesn’t have all these problems. For example, virtual reality glasses consist of two separate lenses, each with a screen behind them. These glasses are fixed by a special holder and suspended above the treadmill on which the mouse must stand. A lens is then placed over each eye, after which the mice completely imagine themselves in the digital environment and cannot see the laboratory. “What we saw was that the mice responded successfully to the images in the first session,” Dombeck says. “We believe that with this new technology, mice will no longer need as much training.”

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Danger from above
In addition, there is another major problem that new technology can solve. For the first time, it is now possible to experience images in which danger comes towards the mouse from the air. Previously, this was not possible, because the screen often did not fit there. However, the upper part of the field of view is also the most sensitive part for many rodents, because this is the part where predators first enter their field of view. For example, think of an owl trying to catch a bite of air. It is difficult in the wild to research the brain activity that is happening at that moment, but the laboratory environment is ideal for this. During the sessions, the scientists simulated a dark disk at the top of the screen that slowly grew larger. As it turned out, the mice immediately responded by running faster or freezing.

Scientists have already made clear what they want to study next. For example, co-researcher John Issa says, “In the future we would like to look at situations where it is the mouse that is hunting other animals. Take, for example, a fly. Such a situation requires a lot of judgment from the mouse. Thanks to this technology, we can now investigate these types of situations for the first time.

Megan Vasquez

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