In the study, Stanford University School of Medicine neuroscientists stimulated nerve cells in the visual cortex of mice to induce an illusory image in the animals' minds. The scientists needed to stimulate a surprisingly small number of nerve cells, or neurons, in order to generate the perception, which caused the mice to behave in a particular way.
"Back in 2012, we had described the ability to control the activity of individually selected neurons in an awake, alert animal," said Karl Deisseroth, MD, PhD, professor of bioengineering and of psychiatry and behavioral sciences. "Now, for the first time, we've been able to advance this capability to control multiple individually specified cells at once, and make an animal perceive something specific that in fact is not really there -- and behave accordingly."
Study - July - Science - Implications - Understanding
The study, to be published online July 18 in Science, holds implications for obtaining a better understanding of natural information processing in the brain, as well as psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, and points to the possibility of designing neural prosthetic devices with single-cell resolution.
Deisseroth is the study's senior author. Lead authorship is shared by staff scientists James Marshel, PhD, and Sean Quirin, PhD; graduate student Yoon Seok Kim; and postdoctoral scholar Timothy Machado, PhD.
Deisseroth - Howard - Hughes - Medical - Institute
Deisseroth, who is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and holds the D. H. Chen Professorship, pioneered optogenetics, a technology enabling researchers to stimulate particular neurons in freely moving animals with pulses of light, and to observe the resulting effects on the animals' brain function and behavior.
In the new study, Deisseroth and his colleagues inserted a combination of two genes into large numbers of neurons in the visual cortex of lab mice. One gene encoded a light-sensitive protein that caused the neuron to fire in response to a pulse of laser light of a narrowly defined color --...
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