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Laser Photon Rev. 2011 Jan 1;5(1):68-80. Epub 2010 Jun 7.

Neural stimulation with optical radiation.

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Department of Otolaryngology, Feinberg Medical School, Northwestern University, Searle Building 12-470, 303 E. Chicago Avenue, Chicago, IL 60611-3008, USA ; The Hugh Knowles Center, Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, USA.


This paper reviews the existing research on infrared neural stimulation, a means of artificially stimulating neurons that has been proposed as an alternative to electrical stimulation. Infrared neural stimulation (INS) is defined as the direct induction of an evoked potential in response to a transient targeted deposition of optical energy. The foremost advantage of using optical radiation for neural stimulation is its spatial resolution. Exogenously applied or trans-genetically synthesized fluorophores are not used to achieve stimulation. Here, current work on INS is presented for motor nerves, sensory nerves, central nervous system, and in vitro preparations. A discussion follows addressing the mechanism of INS and its potential use in neuroprostheses. A brief review of neural depolarization involving other optical methods is also presented. Topics covered include optical stimulation concurrent with electrical stimulation, optical stimulation using exogenous fluorophores, and optical stimulation by transgenic induction of light-gated ion channels.

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