Optogenetics

Making use of light sensitive/reactive genes (originally found in a type of pond algae), scientists have controlled the firing of neurons in mice and rhesus monkeys. Currently research is underway into the clinical possibilities of using such neurological control for treating a range of neurological disorders including  Parkinson’s. The science could even be used to create more realistic prosthesis which rather than being a mono-directional prosthetic could function as a two way communications pathway between the brain and the prosthetic.

Treating Parkinson’s and other brain diseases could be just the beginning. Optogenetics has amazing potential, not just for sending information into the brain but also for extracting it. And it turns out that Tsien’s Nobel-winning work — the research he took up when he abandoned the hunt for channelrhodopsin — is the key to doing this. By injecting mice neurons with yet another gene, one that makes cells glow green when they fire, researchers are monitoring neural activity through the same fiber-optic cable that delivers the light. The cable becomes a lens. It makes it possible to “write” to an area of the brain and “read” from it at the same time: two-way traffic.

Via Wired (here)

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