Snigdha Mukerjee1 • Eric Lazartigues1,2,3,*
1Department of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, New Orleans, USA
2Neuroscience and Cardiovascular Centers of Excellence, Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, New Orleans, USA
3Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System, New Orleans, USA
The recent development of tools to decipher the intricacies of neural networks has improved our understanding of brain function. Optogenetics allows one to assess the direct outcome of activating a genetically-distinct population of neurons. Neurons are tagged with light-sensitive channels followed by photo-activation with an appropriate wavelength of light to functionally activate or silence them, resulting in quantifiable changes in the periphery. Capturing and manipulating activated neuron ensembles, is a recently-designed technique to permanently label activated neurons responsible for a physiological function and manipulate them. On the other hand, neurons can be transfected with genetically-encoded Ca2+ indicators to capture the interplay between them that modulates autonomic end-points or somatic behavior. These techniques work with millisecond temporal precision. In addition, neurons can be manipulated chronically to simulate physiological aberrations by transfecting designer G-protein-coupled receptors exclusively activated by designer drugs. In this review, we elaborate on the fundamental concepts and applications of these techniques in research.