Scientists from Stanford University, USA, have been able to switch cells ‘on and off’ within the brain of a living animal.
Using optogenetics – a combination of light and genetic engineering to control brain cells – the researchers were able to stop seizures in epileptic mice.
They could also turn on brain cells responsible for producing serotonin – a neurotransmitter that helps to relay messages from one area of the brain to another - to promote social behaviour in mice.
The team is now testing this procedure in fish and collaborating with others to apply it to monkeys.
“This is kind of a nice bookend to 16 years of research,” said Karl Deisseroth, a neuroscientist and bioengineer at Stanford University.