Optogenetics has accelerated the field of neuroscience by overcoming many of the spatial, genetic, and temporal limitations of previous techniques to control neural activity. The study of learning and memory has profoundly benefited from these tools mainly from their use in rodents. New insights have been made regarding the involvement of specific cell types or populations of synapses in the acquisition, consolidation, and retrieval of memories. The cellular specificity and temporal precision of optogenetic manipulations have also shown to be useful to study synaptic mechanisms supporting learning and memory including long-term synaptic plasticity. Recently, new light-sensitive molecules have been developed to control intracellular pathways or gene expression, which promise to enhance our understanding of the molecular mechanism of memory function.
Keywords: Acquisition; Amygdala; Channelrhodopsin; Consolidation; Fear conditioning; Hippocampus; Mice; Neural circuit; Recall; Reward learning.
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