Navigation Links
Sharply focused on neurons, light controls a worm's behavior
Date:1/18/2011

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Jan. 18, 2011 -- Physicists and bioengineers have developed an optical instrument allowing them to control the behavior of a worm just by shining a tightly focused beam of light at individual neurons inside the organism.

The pioneering optogenetic research, by a team at Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Massachusetts Medical School, is described this week in the journal Nature Methods. Their device is known as the CoLBeRT (Controlling Locomotion and Behavior in Real Time) system for optical control of freely moving animals, in this case the millimeter-long worm Caenorhabditis elegans.

"This optical instrument allows us to commandeer the nervous system of swimming or crawling nematodes using pulses of blue and green light -- no wires, no electrodes," says Aravinthan D.T. Samuel, a professor of physics and affiliate of Harvard's Center for Brain Science. "We can activate or inactivate individual neurons or muscle cells, essentially turning the worm into a virtual biorobot."

Samuel and colleagues chose to work with C. elegans, an organism often used in biological research, because of its optical transparency, its well-defined nervous system of exactly 302 neurons, and its ease of manipulation. They genetically modified the worms so their neurons express the light-activated proteins channelrhodopsin-2 and halorhodopsin.

In conjunction with high-precision micromirrors that can direct laser light to individual cells, the scientists were then able to stimulate -- using blue light -- or inhibit -- using green light -- behaviors such as locomotion and egg-laying.

"If you shine blue light at a particular neuron near the front end of the worm, it perceives that as being touched and will back away," says co-author Andrew M. Leifer, a Ph.D. student in Harvard's Department of Physics and Center for Brain Science. "Similarly, blue light shined at the tail end of the modified worm will prompt it to move forward."

The scientists were also able to use pulses of light to steer the worms left or right. By stimulating neurons associated with the worm's reproductive system, they were even able to rouse the animal into secreting an egg.

Key to the CoLBeRT system is a tracking microscope recording the motion of a swimming or crawling worm, paired with image processing software that can quickly estimate the location of individual neurons and instruct a digital micromirror device to illuminate targeted cells. Because cells in an unrestrained worm represent a rapidly moving target, the system can capture 50 frames per second and attain spatial resolution of just 30 microns.

"This development should have profound consequences in systems neuroscience as a new tool to probe nervous system activity and behavior, as well as in bioengineering and biorobotics," Samuel says. "Our laboratory has been pioneering new optical methods to study the nervous system, and this is the latest, and perhaps our greatest, invention."


'/>"/>

Contact: Steve Bradt
steve_bradt@harvard.edu
617-496-8070
Harvard University
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Measurements of CO2 and CO in Chinas air indicate sharply improved combustion efficiency
2. Proposed dietary guidelines for Americans sharply debated
3. 7 CAMH scientists win Young Investigator awards focused on breakthrough research
4. NIH renews Nanomedicine Center focused on treating single-gene disorders for $16.1 million
5. NIH expands network focused on how genes affect drug responses
6. For ever and ever: When the wedding flight never ends
7. Ammonites last meal: New light on past marine food chains
8. New book highlights the cellular and molecular determinants of brain wiring
9. UNC scientists pinpoint link between light signal and circadian rhythms
10. Scripps scientists see the light in bizarre bioluminescent snail
11. Unlocking the secrets of a plants light sensitivity
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:4/3/2017)... WASHINGTON , April 3, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ ... single-cell precision engineering platform, detected a statistically ... cell product prior to treatment and objective ... highlight the potential to predict whether cancer ... prior to treatment, as well as to ...
(Date:3/29/2017)... , March 29, 2017  higi, the health ... in North America , today announced ... and the acquisition of EveryMove. The new investment and ... set of tools to transform population health activities through ... lifestyle data. higi collects and secures data ...
(Date:3/24/2017)... Research and Markets has announced the addition of the ... Forecast to 2025" report to their offering. ... The Global Biometric Vehicle Access System ... over the next decade to reach approximately $1,580 million by 2025. ... forecasts for all the given segments on global as well as ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:10/11/2017)... ... ... is a basic first aid supply for any work environment, but most personal eye wash ... if a dangerous substance enters both eyes? It’s one less decision, and likely quicker response ... piece. , “Whether its dirt and debris, or an acid or alkali, getting anything in ...
(Date:10/11/2017)... Netherlands and LAGUNA HILLS, Calif. ... Institute of Cancer Research, London (ICR) ... MMprofiler™ with SKY92, SkylineDx,s prognostic tool to risk-stratify patients with ... known as MUK nine . The University of ... which is partly funded by Myeloma UK, and ICR will ...
(Date:10/10/2017)... ... , ... San Diego-based team building and cooking events company, Lajollacooks4u, has unveiled ... bold new look is part of a transformation to increase awareness, appeal to new ... , It will also expand its service offering from its signature gourmet cooking classes ...
(Date:10/10/2017)... 10, 2017 International research firm Parks Associates announced ... at the TMA 2017 Annual Meeting , October 11 in ... residential home security market and how smart safety and security products impact ... Parks Associates: Smart Home ... "The residential security market has ...
Breaking Biology Technology: