Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

  • News & Views
  • Published:


Controlling neural circuits with light

Two light-sensitive proteins from unicellular organisms have been harnessed to rapidly activate or silence neurons. This optical remote control allows precise, millisecond control of neural circuits.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Relevant articles

Open Access articles citing this article.

Access options

Buy this article

Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

Figure 1: Light activation of the membrane proteins ChR2 and NpHR.
Figure 2: Remote control of designer neurons1.


  1. Zhang, F. et al. Nature 446, 633–639 (2007).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  2. Matsuzaki, M. et al. Nature Neurosci. 4, 1086–1092 (2001).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  3. Lima, S. Q. & Miesenböck, G. Cell 121, 141–152 (2005).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  4. Slimko, E. M., McKinney, S., Anderson, D. J., Davidson, N. & Lester, H. A. J. Neurosci. 22, 7373–7379 (2002).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  5. Lechner, H. A., Lein, E. S. & Callaway, E. M. J. Neurosci. 22, 5287–5290 (2002).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  6. Burrone, J., O'Byrne, M. & Murthy, V. N. Nature 420, 414–418 (2002).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  7. Karpova, A. Y. et al. Neuron 48, 727–737 (2005).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  8. 8. Boyden, E. S. et al. Nature Neurosci. 8, 1263–1268 (2005).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  9. Li, X. et al. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 102, 17816–17821 (2005).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  10. Han, X. & Boyden, E. S. PLoS ONE 2, e299 (2007).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  11. Miyawaki, A. Neuron 48, 189–199 (2005).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  12. Denk, W., Strickler, J. H. & Webb, W. W. Science 248, 73–76 (1990).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  13. Bi, A. et al. Neuron 50, 23–33 (2006).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  14. Nagel, G. et al. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 100, 13940–13945 (2003).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Häusser, M., Smith, S. Controlling neural circuits with light. Nature 446, 617–619 (2007).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

This article is cited by


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing