Pulses of blue light are able to activate brain cells and control specific behaviors in rhesus monkeys, according to work published online on July 26 in Current Biology.
A team of researchers, led by Dr. Wim Vanduffel from the Massachusetts General Hospital, USA, used a technique called optogenetics, where light-sensitive genes are inserted into cells. Researchers used optogenetics together with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to modify and track a group of neurons responsible for particular eye movements.
"We are the first to show that optogenetics can alter the behavior of monkeys," says Dr. Vanduffel. And this new finding promises a new era in therapeutics.
"This opens the door to use of optogenetics at a large scale in primate research and to start developing optogenetic-based therapies for humans."