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Curiouser and curiouser – why the mad hatter would be excited about neuroscience

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A new way of investigating and potentially treating the brain with ridiculous detail is catching on. We have spotted this, again in MIT’s Technology Review, summarising stuff on optogenetics from the Society for Neuroscience congress recently held in Chicago.  We think it is interesting because we reckon that a better understanding of the neural mechanisms that underpin learnt fear is a step away from better understanding of the neural mechanisms underpinning pain, and chronic pain in particular.  Also, a step closer to novel approaches to Parkinson’s or depression will almost certainly have implications for our approach to chronic pain.  So, it is, at the moment, new and groovy stuff that might be relevant to pain scientists.  I think we should keep an eye on optogenetics.

MIT Technology review: Decoding the Brain with Light

‘Scientists are using genetic ‘light switches’ to probe memory and improve disease therapy.

Molecular ‘light switches’ can reveal exactly which neurons are involved in creating a memory, allowing scientists to trigger that memory using only light. The finding, presented at the Society for Neuroscience conference in Chicago this week, is just one example of how a novel technology called optogenetics is allowing scientists to tackle major unanswered questions about the brain, including the role of specific brain regions in the formation of memory, the process of addiction, and the transition from sleep to wakefulness…”

For more on this article, see the MIT Technology article ‘Decoding the Brain with Light

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