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A bright idea: Tiny injectable LEDs help neuroscientists study the brain
Date:4/12/2013

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. A new class of tiny, injectable LEDs is illuminating the deep mysteries of the brain.

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Washington University in St. Louis developed ultrathin, flexible optoelectronic devices including LEDs the size of individual neurons that are lighting the way for neuroscientists in the field of optogenetics and beyond.

Led by John A. Rogers, the Swanlund professor of materials science and engineering at the U. of I., and Michael R. Bruchas, a professor of anesthesiology at Washington University, the researchers will publish their work in the April 12 issue of the journal Science.

"These materials and device structures open up new ways to integrate semiconductor components directly into the brain," said Rogers, who directs the Frederick Seitz Materials Research Laboratory at the U. of I. "More generally, the ideas establish a paradigm for delivering sophisticated forms of electronics into the body: ultra-miniaturized devices that are injected into and provide direct interaction with the depths of the tissue."

The researchers demonstrated the first application of their devices in optogenetics, a new area of neuroscience that uses light to stimulate targeted neural pathways in the brain. The procedure involves genetically programming specific neurons to respond to light. Optogenetics allows researchers to study precise brain functions in isolation in ways that are impossible with electrical stimulation, which affects neurons throughout a broad area, or with drugs, which saturate the whole brain.

Optogenetics experiments with mice illustrate the ability to train complex behaviors without physical reward, and to alleviate certain anxiety responses. Yet fundamental insights into the structure and function of the brain that emerge from such studies could have implications for treatment of Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, depression, anxiety and other
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Contact: Liz Ahlberg
eahlberg@illinois.edu
217-244-1073
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Source:Eurekalert

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