3-D 'light switch' could lead to new Parkinson's, epilepsy treatment

Light patterns can target various neurons within a square centimeter of brain tissue
Tools
Scientists have developed what the Optical Society calls a "3-D light switch" that can deliver precise points of light to a section of brain tissue to turn them on and off, potentially leading to new treatments including implants for neurologic conditions such as Parkinson's disease and epilepsy.
 
In a study published today in the journal Optics Letters, researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said the new 3-D tool likely could explore entire circuits in the brain, beyond the capabilities of existing 1-D light-emitting technology.
 
The 3-D array is "precise enough to activate a single kind of neuron, at a precise location, with a single beam of light," the Optical Society said in an announcement.
 
Each probe is a little thicker than the human hair, but thin enough to be implanted to any depth in the cerebral cortex without causing damage. Independently controlled, light-emitting ports are located along with length of each probe, allowing a vast array of light patterns within a cubic centimeter of brain tissue, according to the announcement.

"It's turning out to be a very powerful and convenient tool" in the field of optogenetics, MIT professor of electrical engineering Clifton Fonstad, co-lead author of the paper, said in a statement.
 
Researchers also have been using optogenetic technology to research causes and potential treatments of psychiatric conditions such as schizophrenia and neural conditions such as autism, anxiety disorders and depression, according to an article published earlier this year in the journal Biological Psychiatry.
 
To learn more:
- read the study (subscription required)
- here's the announcement
 
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