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LEDs and Lasers Battle for Dominance in Brain Research

BioPhotonics
Oct 2016
Small but generally less powerful, or plenty of power but costly; the fight between LEDs and lasers in optogenetics intensifies.

MARIE FREEBODY, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, marie.freebody@photonics.com

Lighting up the brain to better understand, treat or even cure brain disorders has become an established field known as optogenetics. First introduced in 2005 by professor Karl Deisseroth as he worked in a small laboratory at Stanford University, it has since been named Method of the Year by the journal Nature and is today one of the most promising tools making contributions to the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative — part of a new federal focus aimed at producing a dynamic picture of the brain. Today, optogenetics is flourishing in research laboratories all over the world and has made inroads in sleep and memory studies as well as with brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s, depression and epilepsy. But there is debate over which light source is best suited for the job. While there’s no doubt that both lasers and LEDs have advanced over the years in terms of power, efficiency and available wavelengths, further improvements in both sources could precipitate ground-breaking discoveries. From an unassuming start at Stanford University, the father of optogenetics, Deisseroth, has since become an award-winning and much sought-after psychiatrist and neuroscientist with a large team behind him. One such researcher working closely with him is Jeanne Paz, professor at the Gladstone Institutes and the University of California, San Francisco, who believes the various devices that enable light to be delivered into the brain have been revolutionary in neuroscience.

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GLOSSARY
optogenetics
A discipline that combines optics and genetics to enable the use of light to stimulate and control cells in living tissue, typically neurons, which have been genetically modified to respond to light. Only the cells that have been modified to include light-sensitive proteins will be under control of the light. The ability to selectively target cells gives researchers precise control. Using light to control the excitation, inhibition and signaling pathways of specific cells or groups of cells...
diode laserslaserslight sourcesBiophotonicsMarie FreebodyCoboltoptogeneticsDPSS lasersDPSSLLEDsBrain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies InitiativeneuroscienceFeatures

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