Optogenetic Methods to Investigate Brain Alterations in Preclinical Models

Cells. 2022 Jun 5;11(11):1848. doi: 10.3390/cells11111848.


Investigating the neuronal dynamics supporting brain functions and understanding how the alterations in these mechanisms result in pathological conditions represents a fundamental challenge. Preclinical research on model organisms allows for a multiscale and multiparametric analysis in vivo of the neuronal mechanisms and holds the potential for better linking the symptoms of a neurological disorder to the underlying cellular and circuit alterations, eventually leading to the identification of therapeutic/rescue strategies. In recent years, brain research in model organisms has taken advantage, along with other techniques, of the development and continuous refinement of methods that use light and optical approaches to reconstruct the activity of brain circuits at the cellular and system levels, and to probe the impact of the different neuronal components in the observed dynamics. These tools, combining low-invasiveness of optical approaches with the power of genetic engineering, are currently revolutionizing the way, the scale and the perspective of investigating brain diseases. The aim of this review is to describe how brain functions can be investigated with optical approaches currently available and to illustrate how these techniques have been adopted to study pathological alterations of brain physiology.

Keywords: brain disorders; optogenetic methods; preclinical models.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / pathology
  • Humans
  • Nervous System Diseases* / genetics
  • Neurons / pathology
  • Optogenetics* / methods

Grant support

This research received no external funding.