MAR 07, 2018 07:58 AM PST

Lighting Up the Brain With Optogenetics


Being able to flip a switch and control a brain sounds like the latest sci-fi movie, but it's a real thing in the field of neuroscience. It's called "optogenetics," and specific frequencies of light are used to activate neurons in the brain. Once activated those neurons, will fire and researchers can better understand the particular functions cells have. It's also possible to treat some conditions with optogenetics. It works by targeting ion receptors on the surface of brain cells. Normally these ion receptors are set in motion by neurotransmitters, but in cases of injury or disease, when the brain is not functioning correctly, optogenetics can attempt to evaluate and even treat the problem.

Fiber optic wires can be inserted into brain tissue and a pulse of light that lasts just one-thousandth of a second can open up the ion channels of whatever cell it hits. The field has only been around since 2005 when the first study of optogenetics successfully stimulated cells from a rat. They were not live in the animal, but in a petri dish, but that early research is what led to today's technology that is much more effective.
About the Author
  • I'm a writer living in the Boston area. My interests include cancer research, cardiology and neuroscience. I want to be part of using the Internet and social media to educate professionals and patients in a collaborative environment.
You May Also Like
SEP 22, 2018
Videos
SEP 22, 2018
How Much of the Human Genome is Just Junk DNA?
Once written off as junk, it was suggested that some regions of the genome that don't code for protein act as regulators. But how much?...
SEP 25, 2018
Space & Astronomy
SEP 25, 2018
Japan Put Two Landers On An Asteroid for Science
Japanese space agency JAXA recently made history after its Hayabusa 2 mission approached the asteroid 162173 Ryugu and dumped off two landers to study the ...
OCT 02, 2018
Space & Astronomy
OCT 02, 2018
Here's What'd Happen if We Detonated a Nuclear Bomb in Space
Have you ever wondered what would happen if humankind detonated its most powerful nuclear bomb in space? If so, then this is a video you’ll want to w...
OCT 03, 2018
Videos
OCT 03, 2018
Understanding Brain Aneurysms
A brain aneurysm is a medical emergency, but many patients don’t understand much about them. First, it’s not the same a clot. An aneurysm is wh...
OCT 05, 2018
Videos
OCT 05, 2018
Listeria Infections Linked to Deli Ham
The CDC has some advice about a ham recall announced on October 3 by Johnston County Hams, Inc....
OCT 19, 2018
Videos
OCT 19, 2018
Latin American Coffee Harvests Threatened by Fungus
A fungus called hemileia vastatrix causes a serious plant disease called coffee leaf rust....
Loading Comments...