The advent of optogenetics in neurosciences

Lighting the brain

On a recent Friday morning, a gray-haired woman whom I will call Sally arrived for an appointment with Karl Deisseroth, a psychiatrist and a neuroscientist in the bioengineering department at Stanford University. Sally, now in her sixties, had suffered since childhood from major depression, and had tried the standard treatments: counselling, medication, even electroconvulsive therapy. Nothing helped. She had spent much of her adult life in bed, and had twice attempted suicide. Seven years ago, she was referred to Deisseroth, who uses a combination of unusual medications and brain stimulation to treat autism and severe depression. He accepts only patients for whom all other treatments have failed. On Deisseroth’s advice, a surgeon implanted beneath Sally’s left collarbone a small, battery-powered device that regularly sends bursts of electricity into the vagus nerve, which carries the signal into a deep-brain structure that doctors think regulates mood. ….[READ]

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