Technical Report abstract

Nature Neuroscience 8, 1263 - 1268 (2005)
Published online: 14 August 2005 | doi:10.1038/nn1525

Millisecond-timescale, genetically targeted optical control of neural activity

Edward S Boyden1, Feng Zhang1, Ernst Bamberg2,3, Georg Nagel2,5 & Karl Deisseroth1,4

Temporally precise, noninvasive control of activity in well-defined neuronal populations is a long-sought goal of systems neuroscience. We adapted for this purpose the naturally occurring algal protein Channelrhodopsin-2, a rapidly gated light-sensitive cation channel, by using lentiviral gene delivery in combination with high-speed optical switching to photostimulate mammalian neurons. We demonstrate reliable, millisecond-timescale control of neuronal spiking, as well as control of excitatory and inhibitory synaptic transmission. This technology allows the use of light to alter neural processing at the level of single spikes and synaptic events, yielding a widely applicable tool for neuroscientists and biomedical engineers.

  1. Department of Bioengineering, Stanford University, 318 Campus Drive West, Stanford, California 94305, USA.
  2. Max-Planck-Institute of Biophysics, Department of Biophysical Chemistry, Max-von-Laue-Str. 3, D-60438 Frankfurt am Main, Germany.
  3. Department of Biochemistry, Chemistry and Pharmaceutics, University of Frankfurt, Marie-Curie-Str. 9, 60439 Frankfurt am Main, Germany.
  4. Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford School of Medicine, 401 Quarry Road, Stanford, California 94305, USA.
  5. Present address: Julius-von-Sachs-Institut, University of Würzburg, Julius-von-Sachs-Platz 2–4, D-97082 Würzburg, Germany.

Correspondence to: Karl Deisseroth1,4 e-mail:


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