Optogenetics

Optogenetics

Optogenetics is a neuromodulation technique employed in neuroscience where light pulses are used to activate and deactivate neurons which have been genetically sensitized to photons. It employs a combination of techniques from optics and genetics to control and monitor the activities of individual neurons in living tissue—even within freely-moving animals—and to precisely measure the effects of those manipulations in real-time. The key reagents used in optogenetics are light-sensitive proteins.

The earliest approaches were developed and applied in the lab of Gero Miesenböck, now Waynflete Professor of Physiology at the University of Oxford, and Richard Kramer and Ehud Isacoff at the University of California, Berkeley; these methods conferred light sensitivity but were never reported to be useful by other laboratories due to the multiple components these approaches required. A distinct single-component approach involving microbial opsin genes introduced in 2005 turned out to be widely applied. Optogenetics is known for the high spatial and temporal resolution that it provides in altering the activity of specific types of neurons to control a subject’s behavior.

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