Optogenetics -- revolutionary new research technique Image 4
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Optogenetics -- revolutionary new research technique (Image 4)

July 15, 2014
Optogenetics is a revolutionary new research technique that enables scientists to use light to precisely control the activity of neurons in the brain. In optogenetics, light-sensitive ion channels and pumps, known as microbial opsins, are genetically targeted to specific cells, so that upon light delivery, just those cells will be electrically activated or silenced. In this image, the basket cells, small interneurons of the cortex, are expressing the light-gated ion channel channelrhodopsin-2. Upon illumination of the cortex, just the basket cells are electrically activated. Such technologies could be used to investigate what behaviors or brain functions a given set of cells is sufficient for, or alternatively to activate neurons for potential therapeutic purposes. This research was supported by a National Science Foundation (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award (CBET 10-53233), and by NSF grants EFRI 08-35878, DMS 08-48804 (a Small Grant for Exploratory Research) and DMS 10-42134, which funded the development of optogenetics tools and their applications. Credit: Ed Boyden and Massachusetts Institute of Technology McGovern Institute

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