Optogenetic Brain Interfaces
Ramin Pashaie, Ph.D.
College of Engineering and Applied Sciences
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
The brain is a large network of interconnected neurons where each cell functions as a nonlinear processing element. Unraveling the mysteries of information processing in the complex networks of the brain requires versatile neurostimulation and imaging techniques. Optogenetics is a new stimulation method which allows the activity of neurons to be modulated by light.
For this purpose, specific cell-types of interest are genetically targeted to produce light-sensitive proteins. Once these proteins are expressed, neural activity can be controlled by exposing the cells to light of appropriate wavelengths. Optogenetics provides a unique combination of features, including multimodal control over neural function and genetic targeting of specific cell-types. These versatile features are highly suitable for the study of the circuitry involved in psychiatric and neurological disorders. The advent of optogenetics was followed by extensive research aimed to produce new instrumentation for light delivery or controlling light distribution inside the brain as well as neuroimaging systems which are necessary to monitor induced activities. In this presentation, I will summarize our recent endeavors in developing technologies for optogenetic experiments.