The promise and perils of causal circuit manipulations

Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2018 Apr;49:84-94. doi: 10.1016/j.conb.2018.01.004. Epub 2018 Feb 4.


The development of increasingly sophisticated methods for recording and manipulating neural activity is revolutionizing neuroscience. By probing how activity patterns in different types of neurons and circuits contribute to behavior, these tools can help inform mechanistic models of brain function and explain the roles of distinct circuit elements. However, in systems where functions are distributed over large networks, interpreting causality experiments can be challenging. Here we review common assumptions underlying circuit manipulations in behaving animals and discuss the strengths and limitations of different approaches.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / cytology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Models, Neurological
  • Neural Pathways / cytology
  • Neural Pathways / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology*