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Open AccessFeature PaperReview

Optogenetics in Brain Research: From a Strategy to Investigate Physiological Function to a Therapeutic Tool

1
European Laboratory for Non-Linear Spectroscopy, University of Florence, 50019 Sesto Fiorentino, Italy
2
Neuroscience Institute, National Research Council, 56121 Pisa, Italy
3
National Institute of Optics, National Research Council, 50125 Firenze, Italy
4
Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Florence, 50019 Sesto Fiorentino, Italy
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Photonics 2019, 6(3), 92; https://doi.org/10.3390/photonics6030092
Received: 3 June 2019 / Revised: 23 July 2019 / Accepted: 25 July 2019 / Published: 20 August 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Neurophotonics – Optics for the Brain)
Dissecting the functional roles of neuronal circuits and their interaction is a crucial step in basic neuroscience and in all the biomedical field. Optogenetics is well-suited to this purpose since it allows us to study the functionality of neuronal networks on multiple scales in living organisms. This tool was recently used in a plethora of studies to investigate physiological neuronal circuit function in addition to dysfunctional or pathological conditions. Moreover, optogenetics is emerging as a crucial technique to develop new rehabilitative and therapeutic strategies for many neurodegenerative diseases in pre-clinical models. In this review, we discuss recent applications of optogenetics, starting from fundamental research to pre-clinical applications. Firstly, we described the fundamental components of optogenetics, from light-activated proteins to light delivery systems. Secondly, we showed its applications to study neuronal circuits in physiological or pathological conditions at the cortical and subcortical level, in vivo. Furthermore, the interesting findings achieved using optogenetics as a therapeutic and rehabilitative tool highlighted the potential of this technique for understanding and treating neurological diseases in pre-clinical models. Finally, we showed encouraging results recently obtained by applying optogenetics in human neuronal cells in-vitro. View Full-Text
Keywords: light-delivery systems; in vivo; channelrhodopsin; rehabilitation; stimulation; neurons; neurodegenerative disease light-delivery systems; in vivo; channelrhodopsin; rehabilitation; stimulation; neurons; neurodegenerative disease
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Montagni, E.; Resta, F.; Mascaro, A.L.A.; Pavone, F.S. Optogenetics in Brain Research: From a Strategy to Investigate Physiological Function to a Therapeutic Tool. Photonics 2019, 6, 92.

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