Discovering The Brain-Optogenetics

To find out how the brain works, a new procedure is called as optogenetics. It helps us discover many new things about the brain. Here, we explain what makes optogenetics so special in studying the brain.

By Sana and Hiba Irfan

Specialized cells in the brain and nervous system, called neurons, interact in the brain by transmitting and receiving electrical and chemical signals. There are billions of neurons in the brain, and the signals sent between these cells are the basis of all our thoughts and behavior. Neurons are sometimes called nerve cells, which work together to produce all our thoughts and behaviors. To understand how the brain regulates function, we need to understand how neurons communicate. The human brain is extremely complex, but many aspects of the human brain are similar to those of other animals. This means that neuroscientists can use simple animals to discover new things about the human brain. This is how the communication between neurons was discovered.


Figure 1: Optogenetics: Using light to control brain

Since the 1930’s, brain tests have been reversed. Electricity promotion research has some drawbacks. One problem is that the brain can be damaged when an electrode is inserted. Another problem is that electrical stimulation works the tissues in a normal, non-selective way. It’s like using a tractor where the shovel will work – the tractor is working, but not very accurate or careless. In 2005, a new system was developed to allow for accurate brain stimulation. This method is called optogenetics.

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Optogenetics is a branch of biotechnology that involves the use of light to control neurons or a genetically modified neural circuit to produce light-sensitive ion channels.

Opsin technology is developed from the rhodopsin channel concept; the light-enhanced ion channel present in the green algae Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. It is divided into two categories such as effector and sensor optogenetics, in which operators deal with the expression of neural circuits and nerves used to manage neural regions.

The process of green fluorescent protein (GFP) and other organic devices that use multiple genes to produce the ability to act on images collected under optogenetics technology. Research into the effectiveness of technology and other tools and research on the ongoing improvement of existing drugs and related diseases is being done extensively to expand its use in human medicine strategies.

The working of optogenetics

In optogenetics, ion channels that affect the desired light (GEP, channel-rhodopsin, halo-rhodopsin, etc.) are introduced into the target gene by viral bacteria. In light, these light-sensitive ion channels after transfer, open or shut down appropriately to study the disease pattern and the effectiveness of a given treatment. Using this method, even the most complex tissues of living brains are easily studied. For example, in a mouse test, it uses “light tubes” to transmit light to specific areas of the brain, which stimulate the sensory nerves to open up the motor center for exercise.

Studies have previously shown that channeling the  gene into retinal cells initiates a light response in photoreceptor-entula mice. Ultimately, this approach is more effective and effective in treating blindness caused by macular degeneration and other diseases in humans than with harmful therapies.

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Optogenetics in the Treatment of Human Neurological Diseases

Optogenetics is still in its early stages in human pathology models. However, recent clinical trials are working on the use of optogenetics to alleviate vision loss, hearing loss, pain and other conditions in humans. The first use of optogenetics in the human pathology model was in 2016.

A woman who was blind due to the degenerative condition of retinitis pigmentosa had a gene-associated gene that was implanted in her retinal ganglion cell cells. This virus carries the gene algae protein channel-rhodopsin. The test aims to restore light sensitivity to retinal cells by this opsin. In fact, some restoration took place. The precision and specificity of human cells make this technology effective in this type of treatment.

Many other studies are ongoing and some may eventually reach the level of clinical testing. Currently, techniques are only used for animal models. Some research into the treatment of hearing loss is ongoing, and its purpose is to increase the effectiveness of cochlear implants. This type of installation is currently not sensitive enough to allow the user to understand the conversation when surrounded by a large chat room, for example.


Figure 3: Impact of optogenetics on regenerative medicines

Applications Of Optogenetics

Optogenetic methods have been used in a wide range of questions on behavior and physical activity, providing comprehension of movement, wandering, learning, memory, metabolism, hunger, thirst, breathing, sleep, blood pressure, reward, motivation, fear, and emotional functioning. There have also been clinical findings, which help to illuminate cellular activities associated with conditions such as epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, stroke, chronic pain, compulsive disorder, drug addiction, depression, social dysfunction, and anxiety. For example, optogenetics has made it possible to identify which cells and connections in the brain are important in interpreting and combining various aspects of anxiety, including respiratory and avoidance risks, in a different behavioral setting.

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 The introduction of optogenetics as a research tool has also helped to promote major, national brain research projects, including the Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neuro-technologies (BRAIN) Initiative, launched in the United States in 2013. The application for the treatment of non-vascular diseases such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease uses optogenetics. One project focuses on the development of light sensors that can be installed to improve deep electrical stimulation, a procedure used in patients with Parkinson’s disease and other brain diseases

Optogenetics is currently used in

Surely, optogenetics has been used to study not only the brain but also the heart tissue, stem cells, and biological structures.


  1. Edward S. Boyden. (2011). A history of optogenetics: the development of tools for controlling brain circuits with light.
  2. ↑ Kolb, B., Whishaw, I. Q., and Teskey, G. C. 2016. An Introduction to Brain and Behavior. 5th ed. New York, NY: Worth.
  3. ↑ Nagel, G., Szellas, T., Huhn, W., Kateriya, S., Adeishvili, N., Berthold, P., et al. 2003. Channelrhodopsin-2, a directly light-gated cation-selective membrane channel. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 100:13940–5. doi:10.1073/pnas.1936192100




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