Photothermal inhibition of neural activity with near-infrared-sensitive nanotransducers

ACS Nano. 2014 Aug 26;8(8):8040-9. doi: 10.1021/nn5020775.


A neural stimulation technique that can inhibit neural activity reversibly and directly without genetic modification is valuable for understating complex brain functions and treating brain diseases. Here, we propose a near-infrared (NIR)-activatable nanoplasmonic technique that can inhibit the electrical activity of neurons by utilizing gold nanorods (GNRs) as photothermal transducers on cellular membranes. The GNRs were bound onto the plasma membrane of neurons and irradiated with NIR light to induce GNR-mediated photothermal heating near the membrane. The electrical activity from the cultured neuronal networks pretreated with GNRs was immediately inhibited upon NIR irradiation, and fully restored when NIR light was removed. The degree of inhibition could be precisely modulated by tuning the laser intensity, thereby enabling restoration of firing of a hyperactive neuronal network with epileptiform activity. This nanotechnological approach to inhibit neural activity provides a powerful therapeutic platform to control cellular functions associated with disordered neural circuits.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Transport
  • Cell Membrane / drug effects
  • Cell Membrane / radiation effects
  • Cetrimonium
  • Cetrimonium Compounds / chemistry
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Gold / chemistry*
  • Gold / metabolism
  • Gold / pharmacology*
  • Hippocampus / cytology
  • Hot Temperature
  • Infrared Rays*
  • Nanotechnology*
  • Nanotubes*
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / drug effects*
  • Neurons / radiation effects*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley


  • Cetrimonium Compounds
  • Gold
  • Cetrimonium