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Lab, Field, and Clinic |

Optogenetics Illuminates Brain Function

Bridget M. Kuehn
JAMA. 2010;303(1):20. doi:10.1001/jama.2009.1860.
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Chicago—An emerging technique that allows scientists to use light-bearing fiberoptics to control select types of brain cells in living animals is helping to elucidate the role played by individual cell types in a pathological state and to identify which type of cell mediates the benefits of brain-targeted therapy.

Nobelist Francis Crick, the codiscoverer of DNA's structure, said the central challenge in neuroscience is the difficulty of controlling just 1 type of neuron at a time (Crick FHC. Sci Am. 1979;241[3]:219-232). The new technique, called optogenetics, helps scientists overcome this challenge, said Karl Deisseroth, MD, PhD, associate professor of bioengineering and psychiatry at Stanford University in California, at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in Chicago in October.

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Blue laser light delivered deep into the brain of a mouse that has been genetically altered to produce light-sensitive proteins in select neurons can influence the animal's behavior.

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