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Acta Pharmacol Sin. 2013 Nov;34(11):1381-5. doi: 10.1038/aps.2013.150. Epub 2013 Oct 28.

Optogenetics and synaptic plasticity.

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1] Department of Pharmacology & Therapeutics, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg MB, R3E 0T6, Canada [2] Robarts Research Institute, University of Western Ontario, London ON, N6K 5K8, Canada.


The intricate and complex interaction between different populations of neurons in the brain has imposed limits on our ability to gain detailed understanding of synaptic transmission and its integration when employing classical electrophysiological approaches. Indeed, electrical field stimulation delivered via traditional microelectrodes does not permit the targeted, precise and selective control of neuronal activity amongst a varied population of neurons and their inputs (eg, cholinergic, dopaminergic or glutamatergic neurons). Recently established optogenetic techniques overcome these limitations allowing precise control of the target neuron populations, which is essential for the elucidation of the neural substrates underlying complex animal behaviors. Indeed, by introducing light-activated channels (ie, microbial opsin genes) into specific neuronal populations, optogenetics enables non-invasive optical control of specific neurons with milliseconds precision. These approaches can readily be applied to freely behaving live animals. Recently there is increased interests in utilizing optogenetics tools to understand synaptic plasticity and learning/memory. Here, we summarize recent progress in applying optogenetics in in the study of synaptic plasticity.

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