mouse depression top

You’ve probably never heard of Susumu Tonegawa before, but now’s your chance to fix that! Tonegawa won the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1987 for the discovery of the genetics behind antibody diversity, and he’s been going strong ever since doing his best to keep all of us ungrateful ingrates healthy.

And now Susumu and his team have recently made another breakthrough discovery: treating depression. They were able to virtually reverse the effects of stressful situations on male mice by having them remember the good times they’d spent with lady-mice. How did they do it? Read on to find out!

The article by Susumu and his team at the Riken Brain Science Institute appeared in the English-language science magazine Nature on June 18. In it, they explain their methodology and conclusions in this experiment that basically proves what most of us heterosexual males have known our entire lives: memories of good times with ladies make us feel happy.

To conduct the experiment they first let the male mice go and have a nice time with some lady-mice.

▼ The article doesn’t go into detail on what the mice did together, but we can only assume it looked something like this:

mouse happy timesFlickr (Kevin Dooley)

While the mice were having fun together, the scientists recorded the neurons that fired in the male mouse. Afterward, they removed the male mouse and put him in a stressful situation: wrapping him in plastic wrap for 40 minutes a day over a period of ten days.

▼ Whatever you’re imagining in your head, please just picture this instead.

mouse burritoReddit (noobishcow)

Of course, the stress-inducer worked. The mice stopped showing an interest in the sugar-water that they had previously enjoyed, as well as other signs of depression.

What the scientists did next was insert fiber optics inside the mouse’s head. The fibers would shine a blue light on the neurons that had been active during the mouse’s happy time, activating them again and forcing the mouse to recall those good memories.

Just as the scientists expected, as long as the light shined on the correct neurons, the mouse returned to his normal state, free of depression.

The research team is quoted as saying this about the experiment: “There is a possibility that when you are depressed, you cannot recall happy memories as being happy times. We are seeing a connection between artificially stimulating happy memories and a relief of the symptoms of depression.”

Susumu himself also added that while this is a breakthrough in treatment for depression, it’s still a long way off from being used on humans. Still, that didn’t stop a bunch of humans from commenting about it online. Here’s what Japanese netizens had to say:

“But what if you don’t have those happy memories to begin with?”
“Please give me some of that miracle blue light!”
“So that’s why I always think dirty things when I’m depressed at work.”
“More details on the mouse’s ‘happy time’ please.”
“I can’t believe a mouse is happier than me….”

This is certainly a huge development in depression treatment, though as the Japanese commentators pointed out, you do need the happy memories for it to work in the first place. So everyone, let’s get out there and start having some good times the way mice do…by eating cheese, of course! Lots and lots of cheese.

Source: Mainichi Shimbun via Itai News
Featured/top image: Gorilla Artfare (Patri Balanovsky)