Millisecond-timescale, genetically targeted optical control of neural activity
Temporally precise, noninvasive control of activity in well-defined neuronal populations is a long-sought goal of systems neuroscience. We adapted for this purpose the naturally occurring algal protein Channelrhodopsin-2, a rapidly gated light-sensitive cation channel, by using lentiviral gene delivery in combination with high-speed optical switching to photostimulate mammalian neurons. We demonstrate reliable, millisecond-timescale control of neuronal spiking, as well as control of excitatory and inhibitory synaptic transmission. This technology allows the use of light to alter neural processing at the level of single spikes and synaptic events, yielding a widely applicable tool for neuroscientists and biomedical engineers.