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科学美国人60秒: 科学家用“虚拟口味”欺骗苍蝇

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Scientists Fool Flies with "Virtual Tastes"

科学家用“虚拟口味”欺骗苍蝇

There's a scene in the Matrix where the character Cypher talks about the illusory experience of eating a fine meal:CARLOS RIBEIRO: "And then he eats from the steak and says:" <> CARLOS RIBEIRO: "It tastes so good, I prefer this virtual reality to the cruelty of the world." <<"FILM CLIP: Ignorance is bliss.">>

在《黑客帝国》中有这样一个场景,角色Cypher谈论吃一顿美餐的虚幻体验:CARLOS RIBEIRO:“然后他吃了牛排说:”<<电影剪辑:“我知道这块牛排不存在。我知道当我把它放进嘴里时,母体告诉我的大脑它是多汁和美味的。>>卡洛斯·里贝罗:“它尝起来太棒了,比起残酷的世界,我更喜欢这种虚拟现实。”<<"电影片段:无知是福">>

Recounting that scene is Carlos Ribeiro, a neuroscientist at the Champalimaud Foundation in Portugal. He has a special interest in that scene because he has essentially recreated that phenomenon—in fruit flies. "This is exactly what we're doing to the flies."

葡萄牙查姆帕利莫德基金会的神经学家卡洛斯·里贝罗(Carlos Ribeiro)讲述了这一幕。他对那个场景特别感兴趣,因为他基本上是在果蝇身上重现了那个现象。“这正是我们对苍蝇所做的。”

Here's how it works. He and his team raised genetically engineered flies with taste neurons that can be turned on and off with red and green light. That kind of process is known as optogenetics.

它是这样工作的。他和他的团队培育了具有味觉神经元的转基因果蝇,这些神经元可以在红光和绿光下开关。这种过程被称为光遗传学。

His team fed the flies bland food, which they understandably disliked. But then the researchers bathed the flies in light to turn on sweetness-perceiving neurons, and the flies gobbled up the food, which to them now tasted sweet. The team was also able to do the same with bitter neurons. The flies got bitter food, which they avoided—but the scientists then turned off the bitter neurons, and all of a sudden the flies changed their minds. "And so we have used this to create completely virtual taste realities for our flies." The experimental details are in the journal eLife.

他的团队给果蝇喂食淡味食物,它们不喜欢这种食物是可以理解的。但随后,研究人员让果蝇沐浴在阳光下,打开感知甜味的神经元,果蝇狼吞虎咽地吃下了食物,对它们来说,食物现在尝起来很甜。研究小组也对苦神经元做了同样的实验。这些果蝇吃了苦味的食物,它们避开了这些食物,但科学家们随后关闭了这些苦味神经元,突然,果蝇改变了主意。“所以我们用这个为我们的果蝇创造了完全虚拟的味觉现实。”实验细节发表在eLife杂志上。

So, why do this? "We really want to understand how the brain uses sensory taste information to make feeding decisions—and also what goes wrong in obese people, for example, or when there are other diseases related to nutrition."

那么,为什么要这样做呢?“我们真的很想知道大脑是如何利用感官味觉信息来做出进食决定的,比如,肥胖者的问题出在哪里,或者是否存在其他与营养有关的疾病。”

He also imagines we could someday use gene therapy techniques to plug senses back into the noses or tongues of people who've lost the ability to smell or taste. But for now, that is, like the Matrix, firmly the realm of science fiction.

他还设想,有一天我们可以利用基因治疗技术,把感觉塞回失去嗅觉或味觉能力的人的鼻子或舌头里。但就目前而言,这就像《黑客帝国》一样,完全属于科幻小说的范畴。

Scientists Fool Flies with "Virtual Tastes"

There's a scene in the Matrix where the character Cypher talks about the illusory experience of eating a fine meal:CARLOS RIBEIRO: "And then he eats from the steak and says:" <> CARLOS RIBEIRO: "It tastes so good, I prefer this virtual reality to the cruelty of the world." <<"FILM CLIP: Ignorance is bliss.">>

Recounting that scene is Carlos Ribeiro, a neuroscientist at the Champalimaud Foundation in Portugal. He has a special interest in that scene because he has essentially recreated that phenomenon—in fruit flies. "This is exactly what we're doing to the flies."

Here's how it works. He and his team raised genetically engineered flies with taste neurons that can be turned on and off with red and green light. That kind of process is known as optogenetics.

His team fed the flies bland food, which they understandably disliked. But then the researchers bathed the flies in light to turn on sweetness-perceiving neurons, and the flies gobbled up the food, which to them now tasted sweet. The team was also able to do the same with bitter neurons. The flies got bitter food, which they avoided—but the scientists then turned off the bitter neurons, and all of a sudden the flies changed their minds. "And so we have used this to create completely virtual taste realities for our flies." The experimental details are in the journal eLife.

So, why do this? "We really want to understand how the brain uses sensory taste information to make feeding decisions—and also what goes wrong in obese people, for example, or when there are other diseases related to nutrition."

He also imagines we could someday use gene therapy techniques to plug senses back into the noses or tongues of people who've lost the ability to smell or taste. But for now, that is, like the Matrix, firmly the realm of science fiction.


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