Science Times: Increasing the Relevance of Optogenetics to the Human Brain: Novel Platform for Nonhuman Primates

Optogenetics involves the transfer to neurons of a gene encoding a transmembrane protein, which, on exposure to specific wavelengths of light, undergoes a conformational change, causing the channel to open and the neuron to change its firing rate. The specificity of modulation that is potentially achievable with on-demand optogenetics has led to the suggestion that discoveries made in animal models can have implications in the clinical setting, including in the development of closed-loop neuromodulation devices.1 Realizing the potential of optogenetics to relate brain function to behavior that is most relevant to the human brain, however, requires the use of this tool in nonhuman primate (NHP) experiments. Similarly, close parallels between the organization of the human and NHP brains have allowed the use of single-neuron recording and microstimulation in the NHP to inform models of human cognition and clinical practice. However, these techniques suffer from a lack of cell specificity; microstimulation and the local administration of pharmacological agents both activate neurons nonspecifically, whereas microstimulation also may activate fibers of passage.

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