New optical technology heralds exciting potential for mammalian behavioral studies

In an article published in the peer-reviewed, open-access SPIE publication Neurophotonics, "A multi-site microLED optrode array for neural interfacing," researchers present an implantable optrode array capable of exciting below-surface neurons in large mammal brains at two levels, both by structured-light delivery and large-volume illumination. This development is promising for studies aiming to link neural activity to specific cognitive functions in large mammals.

While other optogenetic devices have been previously developed, this latest innovation addresses a multitude of ongoing challenges and improvements when it comes to optical stimulation and neuroscience in large animal models. Enhanced elements include depth of access, heat control, and an electric delivery system compatible with future wireless applications. This is achieved by connecting a glass needle array to a custom-built microLED array and creating a compact and lightweight device optimally suited for behavioral studies.

This new technology heralds exciting potential for new mammalian behavioral discoveries, according to Neurophotonics Associate Editor Anna Wang Roe, a professor in the Division of Neuroscience at the Oregon National Primate Research Center and director of the Interdisciplinary Institute of Neuroscience and Technology at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China.

"The development of a large array multisite optical stimulator is a significant advance in the field of optogenetics and optical stimulation," she said. "Having this array will lead to the ability to stimulate multiple cortical sites simultaneously or sequentially, in a cell-type specific manner. It may also open up the possibility of stimulating with different wavelengths, and therefore different cell types, at selected locations. This capability broadens the menu of possible stimulation paradigms for brain-machine interface."

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