Optogenetics and the Future of Brain Mapping


By: Andrew Huhn, 3rd year PhD candidate in the Neuroscience Program

17optic-articleLargeOptogenetics is one of the most significant advances in neuroscience in the last decade. The very concept of optogenetics appears to come straight from a science fiction novel: we can control the brain with a laser! Okay, so that’s a bit of an overstatement, but not by much.

Optogenetics allows scientists to selectively excite or inhibit discrete areas of an animal brain using a beam of light. Moreover, scientists can control a single type of neuron within that region, providing fine-tuned control that was unachievable with earlier methods. But how exactly is this accomplished? And what implications does this have on biomedical research?