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Feb 20th, 2013
Integrated implant makes it easier to control the brain with light
Plastic optogenetics implant could make a crucial neuroscience tool more widespread.
Almost a decade ago, Stanford University researchers jump-started a new field of study when they genetically altered brain cells, shone light on them, and demonstrated that they could control the modified neurons.
A polymer implant combines the three technologies need for optogenetics—microfluidic channels to deliver genes to brain cells, a waveguide to bring light into the brain, and electrodes to record the activity of the cells.
This brain-control technique, called optogenetics, has since taken off at labs around the world and could lead to breakthroughs for Parkinson’s disease, addiction, depression, and spinal-cord injuries. But optogenetics uses complicated processes that require the separate delivery of genes, light, and electricity to a tiny part of an animal brain. Now researchers in Germany and Switzerland have found a way to simplify the procedure by building a flexible implantable device that delivers all three things.
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