Researchers have developed a laser-based system that allows optical simulation of individual nerve fibers in living mice. Through this process, they have demonstrated that the nervous system has a direct influence on the immune system.
Over the past ten years, a new method has literally shed more light on the brain: optogenetics allows scientists to stimulate genetically-modified nerve cells and investigate their functioning within the complex network inside the skull. This technique represents a revolution in neuroscience, but to date, it could only be applied to study the central nervous system and not the peripheral nervous system.
The optical simulation system connects implantable LEDs with a tiny device on the subject’s head which can be controlled from a tablet via Bluetooth. The researchers have stimulated, with great precision, nerve fibers in the bodies of freely-moving mice. The integrated platform – the chip, the battery, and the antenna for wireless signal transmission – weigh less than one gram – and occupy less than one cubic centimeter.