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Optogenetics: Controlling the Brain with Light [Extended Version]

Optogenetics: Controlling the Brain with Light [Extended Version]
Despite the enormous efforts of clinicians and researchers, our limited insight into psychiatric disease (the worldwide-leading cause of years of life lost to death or disability) hinders the search for cures and contributes to stigmatization. Clearly, we need new answers in psychiatry. But as philosopher of science Karl Popper might have said, before we can find the answers, we need the power to ask new questions. In other words, we need new technology. Developing appropriate techniques is difficult, however, because the mammalian brain is beyond compare in its complexity. In a 1979 Scientific American article Nobel laureate Francis Crick suggested that the major challenge facing neuroscience was the need to control one type of cell in the brain while leaving others unaltered. Meanwhile, in a realm of biology as distant from the study of the mammalian brain as might seem possible, researchers were working on microorganisms that would only much later turn out to be relevant. Related:  Research/parasites&protocol (theories)New Research Info

Noninvasive brain control: New light-sensitive protein enables simpler, more powerful optogenetics -- ScienceDaily Optogenetics, a technology that allows scientists to control brain activity by shining light on neurons, relies on light-sensitive proteins that can suppress or stimulate electrical signals within cells. This technique requires a light source to be implanted in the brain, where it can reach the cells to be controlled. MIT engineers have now developed the first light-sensitive molecule that enables neurons to be silenced noninvasively, using a light source outside the skull. This makes it possible to do long-term studies without an implanted light source. The protein, known as Jaws, also allows a larger volume of tissue to be influenced at once. This noninvasive approach could pave the way to using optogenetics in human patients to treat epilepsy and other neurological disorders, the researchers say, although much more testing and development is needed. Mining nature's diversity To find a better alternative, Boyden, graduate student Amy Chuong, and colleagues turned to the natural world.

Retinitis pigmentosa - National Library of Medicine - PubMed Health The 5 Most Profitable Drugs They Never Cure You - New York News - Runn (...) In this week's cover story, writer Keegan Hamilton investigates the controversy surrounding ibogaine, the experimental hallucinogen drug that has helped kick meth and heroin addictions. Ibogaine is illegal, even though its power to cure addicts has been proven. Hamilton's story describes the many reasons the medical establishment and the government are wary of Ibogaine, despite its benefits, but one of them really stood out: Because Ibogaine is an outright cure, drug companies want nothing to do with it. Martin Kuehne, a chemist at the University of Vermont, is quoted in the story, saying, "Pharmaceutical companies don't like cures. Really, they don't -- that's the sad thing. When we read that, a light went on. So, with that in mind, we thought we'd test Kuehne's theory, and look at the five most profitable drugs in the United States. Guess what they all have one in common?

Optogenetics in monkeys | Human Frontier Science Program Rhesus monkeys are a unique model for investigating the neural correlates of highly cognitive functions and fine motor control. Optogenetics is a new technique using optical excitation and inhibition of specific neuron types based on their expression or projection patterns. With the aim to combine both fields, the authors adapted optogenetic tools to the specific requirements of non-human primate research. This opens the door for a multitude of new scientific experiments investigating causal relationships between neural activities, connections between brain areas, and complex behaviors which can only be studied in non-human-primates. HFSP Long-Term Fellow Ilka Diester and colleaguesauthored on Tue, 08 February 2011 Rhesus monkeys are a unique model for investigating the neural correlates of highly cognitive functions and fine motor control. The aim of this study was to help enable safe, reliable, and effective new experiments using tools designed specifically for non-human primates.

Optogenetics: technology for modifying your brain and your behavior « Canadian Liberty Controlling Brains With a Flick of a Light Switch | September 25, 2012 “Using the new science of optogenetics, scientists can activate or shut down neural pathways, altering behavior and heralding a true cure for psychiatric disease . …” We’re supposed to believe this technology is going to be used primarily for good (if that was possible). Is altering or damaging the brain going to “cure” psychiatric conditions? I don’t believe it. “…In his lab at Stanford University’s Clark Center, Deisseroth is developing a remarkable way to switch brain cells off and on by exposing them to targeted green, yellow, or blue flashes….“… When sunlight hits the opsin, it instantly sends an electric signal through the microbe’s cell membrane, telling the tiny critter which way to turn in relation to the sun.

Biophoton Communication: Can Cells Talk Using Light? One of the more curious backwaters of biology is the study of biophotons: optical or ultraviolet photons emitted by living cells in a way that is distinct from conventional bioluminescence. Nobody is quite sure how cells produce biophotons but the latest thinking is that various molecular processes can emit photons and that these are transported to the cell surface by energy carying excitons. A similar process carries the energy from photons across giant protein matrices during photosynthesis. Whatever the mechanism, a growing number of biologists are convinced that when you switch off the lights, cells are bathed in the pale fireworks of a biophoton display. This is not a bright phenomena. That’s not many. Today, Sergey Mayburov at the Lebedev Institute of Physics in Moscow adds some extra evidence to the debate. Mayburov has spent many hours in the dark watching fish eggs and recording the patterns of biophotons that these cells emit. The answer is that is does, he says.

Optogenetics: A wireless, optical router for your brain Ready for the Bleeding Edge Science Word of the Day? Optogenetics. It’s even weirder than it sounds, too: optogenetics is the manipulation of a cell’s functions with light (usually lasers). Today, American startup Kendall Research has announced that it has made a wireless optogenetics device that the company’s founder calls “a wireless router for the brain.” To understand the importance of optogenetics, and to marvel at the magic of hooking your brain up to a network with a wireless router, we have to first look at how researchers currently investigate cell function, and thus just how groundbreakingly different the optogenetic approach is. At the moment, the only real way to investigate animal cells is to knock out a function, usually by breeding a genetically engineered mutant. Now, back to the “wireless router” claim. As far as humans are concerned, optogenetics are probably the key to Matrix-like “I want to learn Kung Fu!” Read more at Technology Review

Controlling Brains With a Flick of a Light Switch Stopped at a red light on his drive home from work, Karl Deisseroth contemplates one of his patients, a woman with depression so entrenched that she had been unresponsive to drugs and electroshock therapy for years. The red turns to green and Deisseroth accelerates, navigating roads and intersections with one part of his mind while another part considers a very different set of pathways that also can be regulated by a system of lights. In his lab at Stanford University’s Clark Center, Deisseroth is developing a remarkable way to switch brain cells off and on by exposing them to targeted green, yellow, or blue flashes. With that ability, he is learning how to regulate the flow of information in the brain. Deisseroth’s technique, known broadly as optogenetics, could bring new hope to his most desperate patients. Today, those breakthroughs have been demonstrated in only a small number of test animals. For all its complexity, the brain in some ways is a surprisingly simple device.

Fear prompts teens to act impulsively A threatened teen may not back down. One reason: The teenage brain appears to undergo a rewiring that can prompt this response to fear. That’s the finding of new research presented at a meeting on November 10. Its authors say their findings may help explain why criminal activity peaks during the teen years. They reported their observations in San Diego at the Society for Neuroscience meeting. (Neuroscience deals with the structure or function of the brain and other parts of the nervous system.) Kristina Caudle of Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City and her co-workers tested impulse control in 83 people. People between the ages of 13 and 17 were more likely than at any other age to push the button when shown a face with a threatening expression. The scientists wanted some idea of what was happening in the volunteers’ brains during the tests. Her team doesn’t know why younger children don’t show the same poor impulse control when viewing a threatening face. Power Words

Optogenetics and genomic tools make it possible to pinpoint the source of memory, consciousness, and emotions. What might be called the “make love, not war” branch of behavioral neuroscience began to take shape in (where else?) California several years ago, when researchers in David J. Anderson’s laboratory at Caltech decided to tackle the biology of aggression. They initiated the line of research by orchestrating the murine version of Fight Night: they goaded male mice into tangling with rival males and then, with painstaking molecular detective work, zeroed in on a smattering of cells in the hypothalamus that became active when the mice started to fight. The hypothalamus is a small structure deep in the brain that, among other functions, coördinates sensory inputs—the appearance of a rival, for example—with instinctual behavioral responses. By 2010, Anderson’s Caltech lab had begun to tease apart the underlying mechanisms and neural circuitry of aggression in their pugnacious mice. That was a provocative discovery, but it was also a relic of old-style neuroscience. Connections Eavesdropping

Optogenetic/PET-scan technique for mapping brain activity in moving rats Immunolabeling of gene expression in the brain following optogenetic stimulation in rats (credit: P. K. Thanos et al./JNEUROSCI) A technique that uses light-activated proteins to stimulate particular brain cells and positron emission tomography (PET) scans to trace their effects throughout the entire brain of fully-awake, moving animals has been developed by U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory The method will allow researchers to map exactly which downstream neurological pathways are activated or deactivated by stimulation of targeted brain regions, and how that brain activity correlates with particular behaviors and/or disease conditions. “Because the animals are awake and able to move during stimulation, we can also directly study how their behavior correlates with brain activity,” he said. Optogenetics combined with PET scans The scientists used a modified virus to deliver a light-sensitive protein to particular brain cells in rats.

Sound cloaks enter the third dimension A simple plastic shell has cloaked a three-dimensional object from sound waves for the first time. With some improvements, a similar cloak could eventually be used to reduce noise pollution and to allow ships and submarines to evade enemy detection. The experiments appear March 20 in Physical Review Letters. HIDDEN FROM SOUND A cagelike cloak surrounds a plastic sphere in an echo-free chamber. The cloak shielded the sphere from detection at a particular sound frequency, the first time a three-dimensional object has been cloaked from sound waves. L. “This paper implements a simplified version of invisibility using well-designed but relatively simple materials,” says Steven Cummer, an electrical engineer at Duke University, who was not involved in the study. Scientists’ recent efforts to render objects invisible to the eye are based on the fact that our perception of the world depends on the scattering of waves. However, this cloak is just a small step toward stealth submarines.