Optical imaging methods have historically been used to microscopically visualize neurons and neural tissue, and advances in diffuse optical tomography have enabled non-invasive tomographic imaging of the human brain. With newly available methods in the expanding field of optogenetics, it is now possible to confer optical control of cell function using a variety of natural and genetically altered photoactivatable membrane ion channels, such as the well-known channelrhodopsins from the algal species Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. In living organisms, visual systems play an essential role in survival, and many animals have not only developed elegant and sophisticated solutions to detect light and images, but have also evolved new ways of producing light, varying their optical appearance and signatures, and neurologically controlling the optical properties, pigmentation patterns, and texture of their skin.
Neurophotonics is the science of how light interacts with or is utilized in natural and genetically modified neurological systems, across the scales of molecules, neurons, neural circuits, the brain, and living organisms. While the majority of the research in neurophotonics has been driven by neuroscientists, we believe fundamental principles can be discovered and practical technologies can be developed by applying biophotonics, biomedical optics, laser technology, and optical science and engineering to the area of neurophotonics. We are leveraging our expertise and technologies in the Biophotonics Imaging Laboratory to observe and study these systems using a different approach.
In addition to imaging, the Biophotonics Imaging Laboratory has made optical developments to facilitate activation of neural tissue using optogenetics. Ultrafast lasers have been used to activate neural excitation using optogenetic probes, but modulation of the spectral phase to more finely drive this process has not been leveraged in the field. Read more...