Optogenetics: Stranger Than Fiction

It sounds like a science fiction movie: Scientists integrate the photoreceptive properties of light-sensitive algae into rat neurons. The result? A rat whose brain can be controlled by light.

As crazy as it seems, this isn’t science fiction: The field of optogenetics is scientific reality. In a May 2011 talk at the TED Conference, Edward Boyden explained that optogenetics allows scientists to target specific neurons quickly; conventional methods like drugs take longer to kick in. Boyden is also featured in a March Observer article on optogenetics, and he will be speaking in a webinar called Optogenetics in Neurons and Beyond on March 15, 2012.

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