Optogenetics, the intersection between physics and neuroscience: light stimulation of neurons in physiological conditions

Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2014 Dec 1;307(11):R1292-302. doi: 10.1152/ajpregu.00072.2014. Epub 2014 Oct 1.


Neuronal stimulation by light is a novel approach in the emerging field of optogenetics, where genetic engineering is used to introduce light-activated channels. However, light is also capable of stimulating neurons even in the absence of genetic modifications through a range of physical and biological mechanisms. As a result, rigorous design of optogenetic experiments needs to take note of alternative and parallel effects of light illumination of neuronal tissues. Thus all matters relating to light penetration are critical to the development of studies using light-activated proteins. This paper discusses ways to quantify light, light penetration in tissue, as well as light stimulation of neurons in physiological conditions. We also describe the direct effect of light on neurons investigated at different sites.

Keywords: light stimulation; neurons; optogenetics; physiological conditions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Light
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Neurosciences*
  • Optogenetics*
  • Photic Stimulation*
  • Physics*