Genetic Expression Technique Based on Light Switching Proteins Helps Uncover Function of Individual Neurons

The key to the scientists’ success is an artificial, light-activated protein they developed a few years ago. The protein can be genetically engineered to express in a neuron or other type of cell and function as an optical switch. Zap the protein with one color of light, and it switches on and activates its host neuron. Zap it with another color of light, and it turns off and the neuron becomes dormant.