On optogenetics

Go Baxter!

Mark Baxter

I’ve kind of wanted for a while to write something about methodology in behavioral/cognitive neuroscience (I want to reclaim “cognitive neuroscience” from being code for human fMRI, but that’s another post). Optogenetic technology – using light-activated ion channels or other proteins to manipulate neural activity – has swept many areas of neuroscience in the last few years as it has become widely distributed and successfully implemented in many laboratories. 

There is no doubt that the ability to manipulate neural activity with extremely high temporal and spatial resolution is revolutionary and promises many advances in understanding neural information processing. However, I think we’re at a point in this technology where all the exuberance about it is leading to a certain amount of mindlessness in experimental design and interpretation.

I was really delighted by reaction norm’s post about optogenetics and the dangers of oversimplifying what happens when you start to modify neurophysiology…

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