Optogenetics is a way of using light in research in a way that you don't really think about, we think about light as a way to observe things, to see things. With optogenetics we flip it around, we use light to control things we play in light as a stimulus to turn on or off particular kinds of brain cells and neurons. This is pretty powerful as it helps us decide what causes behavior.
Controlling Neurons with Light
Controlling Neurons with Light from AZoNetwork on Vimeo.
Neuroscience has a really long history of powerful techniques, people have been able to listen in on things going on, you can put electrodes into the brain and listen to the activity of neurons as their electrical signals are picked up on the electrode and you can even do thisduring behavior.
So you can think "what correlates with behavior?" An animal decides to make a movement, what's going on in the movement part of an animal's brain and what correlates with the action? But there was always a problem that people didn't know what was actually causal and actually made things happen.
The brain's pretty complicated, there are lots of things that could be happening together by chance or might be happening together for a reason but might not be causing one another. This is the advantage of optogenetics, we can finally learn what actually matters, what's actually causing behavior to happen.