Viviana Gradinaru, California Institute of Technology - Stanford Big Data 2015 | Summary and Q&A

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June 12, 2015
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Stanford
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Viviana Gradinaru, California Institute of Technology - Stanford Big Data 2015

TL;DR

Researchers at Caltech are studying electrical stimulation to understand its effects on the brain and develop more precise therapeutic treatments.

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Questions & Answers

Q: How does deep brain stimulation work for conditions like Parkinson's disease?

Deep brain stimulation involves the placement of electrodes in specific deep brain structures. Depending on the location of the electrode, it can provide motor relief or cause side effects related to mood or cognitive functions.

Q: What is the challenge in understanding how deep brain stimulation works?

Electrical stimulation is non-specific and affects various neural elements, making it challenging to identify the neural circuits responsible for therapeutic effects. Optogenetics is being used to understand the specific pathways.

Q: How can tissue clearing help in understanding neural pathways?

Tissue clearing techniques, such as clarity, allow researchers to remove lipids that scatter light and gain optical access to the tissue. This enables high-resolution imaging and the identification of long-range projection pathways.

Q: Is the pathway highlighted in mice using optogenetics present in humans?

Yes, the pathway identified in mice was also found in the human brain. This suggests that modulating superficial areas of the brain could be a potential target for precise deep brain stimulation.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Caltech researchers are studying electrical stimulation to bring about therapeutical relief in conditions such as Parkinson's disease.

  • They are using optogenetics, a technique that utilizes light-responsive proteins, to achieve precise neuromodulation.

  • The researchers have discovered that modulating the external fibers originating from superficial areas of the brain is more effective than modulating cell bodies for therapeutic effects.

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