Photoswitchable neurotransmitter receptors are powerful tools for precise manipulation of neural signaling. However, their applications for slow or long-lasting biological events are constrained by fast thermal relaxation of cis-azobenzene. We address this issue by modifying the ortho positions of azobenzene used in the tethered ligand. In cultured cells and intact brain tissue, conjugating inhibitory neurotransmitter receptors with one of the derivatives, dMPC1, allows bidirectional receptor control with 380 and 500 nm light. Moreover, the receptors can be locked in either an active or an inactive state in darkness after a brief pulse of light. This strategy thus enables both rapid and sustained manipulation of neurotransmission, allowing optogenetic interrogation of neural functions over a broad range of time scales.