Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

BPoD is 5

In 2017 we celebrate five years of bringing you beautiful imagery from biomedical science

Manipulating Motion
26 July 2017

Manipulating Motion

In the complex maze of cells in the brain, identifying the function of individual neurons is a daunting task. Yet a team of researchers have recently developed a technique to facilitate this process, allowing them to turn specific cells on and off to test their effects on behaviour. Using a modified virus, they inserted a gene encoding a light-sensitive protein, channelrhodopsin-2, into the brain of adult macaques, together with a small segment of DNA, or promoter, which ensured it was activated only in Purkinje cells. Shown here in yellow, Purkinje cells are large and well-connected neurons, involved in producing coordinated movements. When activated by light through a thin optical fibre, channelrhodopsin-2 caused the Purkinje cells to fire, with measurable effects on movement. Although still in its infancy, this technique has huge potential, with a view to treating neurological disorders, such as epilepsy, by directly manipulating neuron activity.

Written by Emmanuelle Briolat

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