Recent advancements in photo-responsive molecules allowed neuroscientists to remotely control neuron activities by focusing light on individual cells. Because of the non-invasive nature of optical control, long term control and monitoring of neurons for study of neuron development and neuroplasticity will also become possible. But the potential of this method can not be fully realized without a powerful tool to direct the light in a spatially and temporally defined pattern. In this application, Photonicent Inc. proposes to develop a novel Dynamic Optical Control System (DOCS) that will allow researchers to apply spatiotemporally-defined optical control over single cells or subcellular structures on a conventional microscope. DOCS will be developed by constructing an integrated hardware and software system for controlling and programming the operation of camera, multiple light sources and spatial light modulator. This advanced tool can generate profound impact on neuroplasticity research by allowing researchers to precisely activate targeting molecules in specific regions inside a single cell, to simultaneously or sequentially probe multiple neurons in a complicated circuitry in tissue samples or small live animals, and to conduct many other systematic investigations that are not possible before but are extremely important for understanding activity-guided neural development and adaptation process.
This research will develop an instrument for dynamic optical manipulation of neuron activities. This enabling tool will lead to new improvements in neuroplasticity research, ultimately resulting in deeper understanding of human nervous system and more effective therapies for nervous system related disorders.