Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

About the PNAS Member Editor
Name Deisseroth, Karl
Location Stanford University
Primary Field Systems Neuroscience
Secondary Field Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
 Election Citation
Deisseroth has developed a set of tools that has revolutionized our ability to study the functional roles of components of brain circuits at the level of cell type specific connections, using light sensitive genetically encoded probes that can either locally activate or inactivate neurons.
 Research Interests
Deisseroth's work is focused on developing and applying methods for studying intact biological systems with fine spatial and temporal resolution, and high molecular and genetic specificity. In his development of optogenetics, he integrated genetics and optics to enable the experimental gain- or loss-of-function of well-defined events in specific cell types within intact biological systems, using microbial opsin genes taken from evolutionarily distant organisms such as algae and archaebacteria which encode single component light-activated regulators of transmembrane ion conductance. Since Deisseroth's transduction of microbial opsins into neurons in 2004, publications from his team have developed 1) faster and more potent opsins for fidelity at high spike rates and low light levels; 2) bistable (step-function) opsin mutants that allow cells to be switched into and out of stable excitable states with single flashes of light; 3) redshifted opsins for combinatorial control with blue light-activated opsins; 4) generalizable methods for targeting opsins; and 5) fiberoptic interface devices to allow optogenetic control of any brain region or tissue in freely-moving mammals. Deisseroth's applications of his technologies have spanned both basic science work relating to motivation and reward, and disease-focused work investigating aspects of Parkinsonism, anxiety, social dysfunction, depression, and other neuropsychiatric disease symptoms.

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