Episode 20: “Deep Brain Stimulation and Optogenetics”
This week’s episode centers around neuronal manipulation via Deep Brain Stimulation and Optogenetics. Lebaron and Dave begin the conversation with a quick introduction to Dystonia and Parkinson’s disease and why the symptoms can be managed via Deep Brain Stimulation. We then outline the basic machinery, surgeries, and the functionalities of the equipment. We give and overview of how the devices are controlled and how they help alleviate the dystonic tremors and pain associated with Parkinson’s and other forms of dystonia. The discussion then turns to Optogenetics, or the ability to control genetic expression and protein function with light. We give an overview of how the cells of the brain are genetically altered via viral infection, and that these cells can then be manipulated by different wavelengths, or colors, of light. These include depressing neuronal firing, exciting neurons, and controlling how the synapses fire, or how neurotransmitters are regulated. This technique has been shown in mice and rats to alleviate pain. We finish up the discussion by looking at a clinical trial that is currently underway to help recover some eyesight in patients that have no ability to detect light.