This post initially appeared on Science Blogs
With a pulse of light, Dayu Lin from New York University can turn docile mice into violent fighters - it's Dr Jekyll's potion, delivered via fibre optic cable. The light activates a group of neurons in the mouse's brain that are involved in aggressive behaviour. As a result, the mouse attacks other males, females, and even inanimate objects.
Lin focused on a primitive part of the brain called the hypothalamus that keeps our basic bodily functions ticking over. It lords over body temperature, hunger, thirst, sleep and more. In particular, Lin found that a small part of this area - the ventrolateral ventromedial hypothalamus (VMHvl) - acts as a hub for both sex and violence.