The human brain is made up of approximately billions of small cells which utilize electrical impulses and chemical signals to communicate with one another and other parts of the human body. These are known as neurons. When neurons stop functioning properly, it can cause a variety of brain disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy, and even depression.
Researchers developed several treatment methods and techniques of brain stimulation which allow them to control neural activity to better understand and regulate these type of health issues. In conventional treatment methods and techniques of deep brain stimulation, electrical neurostimulators, also known as “brain pacemakers,” are surgically implanted in the brain.
Researchers also developed non-invasive treatment approaches to stimulate cells found deep within the brain. While several researchers utilize magnetic pulses or sound waves to stimulate neurons, researchers in the optogenetics utilize light therapy. Shuo Chen, Ph.D., winner of Science and PINS Prize for Neuromodulation, was recognized for his work in this area.
“Dr. Chen demonstrated that near-infrared light, when utilized with certain nanoparticles, allowed the stimulation of neurons deep within the brain,” stated Dr. Karl Deisseroth, professor of bioengineering, psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University. “More research studies are needed to make this a useful process,” he said, “but Dr. Chen took a key step.”
Dr. Karl Deisseroth, one of the leading pioneers of optogenetics, developed a treatment method or technique in which the brain cells or the neurons are genetically engineered to respond to light therapy. Through this method or technique of brain stimulation, researchers transmit fragments of genetic codes from algae and other microbes into the brain cells of mice and other animals. That genetic code ultimately causes neurons to produce light-responsive proteins known as opsins.
When opsin-producing neurons are exposed to specific wavelengths of visible-spectrum light, those brain cells turn on or off. By activating or suppressing the neurons, researchers can learn more about the fundamental role of neurons in brain function and brain disorders. Dr. Karl Deisseroth has also demonstrated the effects of developing light-sensitive neurons.
“By developing light-sensitive brain cells, the causal role of cellular activity can be determined in the tissue as well as for the behavior of interest of any species, ranging from memory to mood,” stated Dr. Deisseroth. “Furthermore, optogenetics brings unmatched capability for speaking the natural language of the brain, in terms of cell-type specificity and speed,” he added.
Opsin-producing neurons, however, respond to visible-spectrum light which can’t penetrate brain tissue. Optogenetic stimulation required the insertion of fiber-optic light sources inside the brain to stimulate neurons. Dr. Deisseroth and his colleague Polina Anikeeva, Ph.D., developed the utilization of near-infrared (NIR) light, a non-invasive type of light therapy.
NIR light can ultimately penetrate through the skull and into brain tissue without the need to insert internal light sources inside the brain. However, NIR light also doesn’t trigger a response from opsin-producing neurons. To promote the tissue-penetrating abilities of NIR light therapy, Dr. Karl Deisseroth and Dr. Anikeeva developed a treatment approach, known as NIR upconversion, which coats opsin-producing neurons in nanoparticles to convert NIR light into visible-spectrum light.
Dr. Shuo Chen utilized this treatment method and technique demonstrating for the first time that NIR upconversion optogenetics can ultimately be utilized to control neurons deep in the brains of mice. Dr. Chen’s research studies utilized this method and technique to stimulate the release of dopamine in a region of the brain believed to play a role in depression.
“Overcoming the challenge of optical penetration depth will be the fundamental key to realizing non-invasive remote optogenetics with high clinical translation potential,” wrote Dr. Chen in his prizewinning essay on the topic. “Our research study utilized a nanomaterial-assisted approach which shifts the existing optogenetic tools into the near-infrared region.”
While researchers continue to research optogenetics in mice and other animals, it hasn’t been utilized as a treatment for brain disorders in humans. Furthermore, more research studies are required to develop and evaluate non-invasive methods of light therapy as well as non-invasive methods and techniques for transmitting genetic code into brain cells or neurons.
“It is too soon to predict which treatment approach will emerge at the forefront of next-generation non-invasive brain stimulation technology,” Dr. Chen said in a press release issued by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. “However, we believe that a variety of fundamental achievements, such as NIR upconversion optogenetics, are quickly unlocking development pathways and paving the way towards a bright therapeutic future for brain diseases,” he continued.
In the meantime, other methods and techniques of non-invasive brain stimulation are also being developed, evaluated, and utilized in humans. Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a non-invasive treatment approach which utilized magnetic fields to stimulate nerve cells in the brain. The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has already allowed the marketing of TMS as a treatment approach for major depression as well as obsessive-compulsive disorder and migraine headaches.
“There are also several non-invasive methods and techniques which don’t require the utilization of gene therapies, such as transcranial magnetic and electrical stimulation, which are commonly utilized with human subjects on an experimental, regular basis,” stated Ed Boyden, Ph.D., a professor of neurotechnology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
Members of Boyden’s research study group have also conducted research studies on transcranial electric stimulation (TES), a non-invasive treatment approach to brain stimulation in which electrodes are placed on the scalp. Researchers hope for this method and technique to allow them to reach neurons or cells deep within brain tissue with greater precision than TMS.
Although research studies have demonstrated that light therapy can stimulate brain cells or neurons of mice and other animals, urther research studies are required to determine how light therapy treatment methods and techniques can stimulate the human brain. According to these same research studies, light therapy can alter neurons or brain cells which can ultimately cause Alzheimers disease, epilepsy, and other brain diseases. – Dr. Alex Jimenez D.C., C.C.S.T. Insight
The human brain consists of billions of small cells or neurons which communicate with one another and other parts of the human body. When neurons stop functioning properly, it can cause a variety of brain disorders. Researchers have developed a variety of light therapy treatment approaches to ultimately help stimulate the brain. The scope of our information is limited to chiropractic, musculoskeletal and nervous health issues as well as functional medicine articles, topics, and discussions. To further discuss the subject matter above, please feel free to ask Dr. Alex Jimenez or contact us at 915-850-0900 .
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