Researchers Use Next-Generation Optogenetics to Control Single Neurons
Published in Optogenetics.
Using a technique that relies on a new type of light-sensitive protein, researchers have devised a way to control single neurons using optogenetics.
Researchers at MIT and Paris Descartes University have developed a new optogenetic technique that sculpts light to target individual cells bearing engineered light-sensitive molecules, so that individual neurons can be precisely stimulated.
Until now, it has been challenging to use optogenetics to target single cells with such precise control over both the timing and location of the activation. This new advance paves the way for studies of how individual cells, and connections among those cells, generate specific behaviors such as initiating a movement or learning a new skill.
“Ideally what you would like to do is play the brain like a piano. You would want to control neurons independently, rather than having them all march in lockstep the way traditional optogenetics works, but which normally the brain doesn’t do,” says Ed Boyden, an associate professor of brain and cognitive sciences and biological engineering at MIT, and a member of MIT’s Media Lab and McGovern Institute for Brain Research.