Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Light Instead of Current

20.02.2009
Activation of neurons with light by means of semiconductor photoelectrodes

Understanding the mechanisms by which the brain functions is one of the most complex challenges in science. One important aspect is the electrical conduction of stimuli in nerve cells.

In order to study neuronal circuits, a sharp metal electrode is usually inserted into the brain to introduce a current. However, the response does not reflect the highly complex activation patterns of natural nerve stimuli. In addition, the direct current applied in this fashion causes damage to tissue through undesired electrochemical side reactions.

Collaboration between neuroscientists and nanomaterials researchers at Case Western Reserve University (Cleveland, Ohio, USA) has resulted in the development of a technique that is both gentler and elicits more natural nerve impulses. As reported in the journal Angewandte Chemie, the technique is based on a micropipette coated with semiconductor nanoparticles that activates neurons in brain tissue with visible or infrared (IR) light. In contrast to conventional electrodes, these photoelectrodes require neither wires nor electrical power.

The team led by Ben W. Strowbridge and Clemens Burda coated the interiors of extremely finely drawn-out glass micropipettes with lead selenide nanoparticles. Lead selenide is a semiconductor that is activated by IR light. As in solar cells, irradiation “catapults” firmly bound electrons out of the valence band and into the conduction band of the semiconductor, where they can move freely. This leads to charge separation and thus to an electrical potential. With a suitable laser, defined processes elicited by short light pulses set off corresponding electrical pulses in the micropipette. An electrical field is thus formed around the pipette, which can then be used by the researchers to stimulate neurons in rat brain samples with a high degree of time-resolution. Measuring electrodes could then be used to record the natural activation patterns of very similar nerve impulses.

Samples of the olfactory bulb (a region of the brain involved in processing smell) and the hippocampus (part of the cerebrum important in the transfer of contents from short-term to the long-term memory) were examined. Neither toxic effects nor damage to the nerve cells were observed after repeated stimulation.

By using these new photoelectrodes, the cooperation of nerve cells can be studied. However, therapeutic applications are also possible: the probes could be used to activate individual regions of the brain or damaged or cut nerves to restore function – without the need for disturbing wires.

Author: Clemens Burda, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland (USA), http://www.case.edu/nanobook/pages/faculty/cburda.htm

Title: Wireless Activation of Neurons in Brain Slices Using Nanostructured Semiconductor Photoelectrodes

Angewandte Chemie International Edition 2009, 48, No. 13, doi: 10.1002/anie.200806093

Clemens Burda | Angewandte Chemie
Further information:
http://pressroom.angewandte.org
http://www.case.edu/nanobook/pages/faculty/cburda.htm

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht The interactome of infected neural cells reveals new therapeutic targets for Zika
23.01.2017 | D'Or Institute for Research and Education

nachricht Ion treatments for cardiac arrhythmia — Non-invasive alternative to catheter-based surgery
20.01.2017 | GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung GmbH

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Quantum optical sensor for the first time tested in space – with a laser system from Berlin

For the first time ever, a cloud of ultra-cold atoms has been successfully created in space on board of a sounding rocket. The MAIUS mission demonstrates that quantum optical sensors can be operated even in harsh environments like space – a prerequi-site for finding answers to the most challenging questions of fundamental physics and an important innovation driver for everyday applications.

According to Albert Einstein's Equivalence Principle, all bodies are accelerated at the same rate by the Earth's gravity, regardless of their properties. This...

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New technology for mass-production of complex molded composite components

23.01.2017 | Process Engineering

Quantum optical sensor for the first time tested in space – with a laser system from Berlin

23.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

The interactome of infected neural cells reveals new therapeutic targets for Zika

23.01.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>