24 July 2009. For the past several years, a handful of research groups have been wowing neuroscience conference audiences with their slides on optogenetics, wherein neurons and their functions are controlled by light. You can read descriptions of the evolution of the technique in recent articles in the The New York Times and Nature; if you have time to watch videos, check out this lecture by Karl Deisseroth of Stanford University. We also have a recent SRF meeting report on the methodology from Victoria Heimer-Torres.
Recently, these techniques have been employed to study a population of cells of interest to a number of schizophrenia neurobiologists—the parvalbumin-expressing interneurons of the cortex. We asked Guillermo Gonzalez-Burgos of the University of Pittsburgh to explain the technique and its potential usefulness for research on psychiatric disorders, as well as to discuss the new findings that link these interneurons with cortical γ oscillations. This work, which appeared as two papers in the June 4 issue of Nature, was performed by Deisseroth and his colleagues at Stanford, as well as in a collaboration between Deisseroth and groups led by Christopher Moore and Li-Huei Tsai at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
These reports are only two of a number of recent papers employing this technique to, variously, drive intracellular signaling (Airan et al., 2009); probe synaptic function (Toni et al., 2008; Liewald et al., 2008) prompt behavioral conditioning via rodent dopamine neurons (Tsai et al., 2009); and deconstruct parkinsonian circuitry (Gradinaru et al., 2009). Optogenetics have even been deployed in a non-human primate model (Han et al., 2009).—Hakon Heimer.
Sohal VS, Zhang F, Yizhar O, Deisseroth K. Parvalbumin neurons and γ rhythms enhance cortical circuit performance. Nature. 2009 Apr 26. Abstract
Cardin JA, Carlén M, Meletis K, Knoblich U, Zhang F, Deisseroth K, Tsai LH, Moore CI. Driving fast-spiking cells induces γ rhythm and controls sensory responses. Nature. 2009 Apr 26. Abstract