An Illuminated State of Mind

From alleviating the sensation of pain and treating depression to retrieving lost memories — or even implanting false memories — optogenetics applies precision science to the mysterious workings of our minds.MARIE FREEBODY, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, MARIE.FREEBODY@PHOTONICS.COMIn a small laboratory with very little equipment, psychiatrist, neuroscientist and professor Karl Deisseroth began a high-risk project to render individual neurons photosensitive. Despite facing a great deal of skepticism from his peers, he remained convinced that if adjustments could be made to specific neurons, then scientists would finally have the tools to decode one of the most complex biological systems known to man — the human brain.One year after he began, Deisseroth released his findings in a groundbreaking paper that presented optogenetics to the world. From quiet beginnings in his lab at Stanford University in…

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