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Optogenetics: New method allows scientists to monitor and stimulate neurons at the same time!

Posted by Ready Lasers on

Optogenetics encompasses a range of techniques which enable control or monitoring of select populations of neurons. Until now, researchers were only able to use these techniques separately. Researchers at University College, London have recently developed a system that allows them to combine these techniques to observe and stimulate neurons simultaneously.

The basis of Optogenetics is the presence of certain light-sensitive proteins in neurons. Some proteins light up only when the neuron fires in response to some stimulus. This allows scientists to observe the natural behavior of those neurons. There are other proteins that cause a neuron to fire (i.e. behave in its natural way) when the neuron is stimulated with a pulse of light, thereby enabling scientists to trigger a reaction. However, this caused every neuron in the vicinity to trigger. This made it impossible for researchers to target individual neurons in a living brain when they behaved in unexpected ways.

The new method overcomes these limitations and allows scientists to choose which specific neuron will be excited with a pulsed light inside the living brain at any given moment.

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