Can Someone Control Our Brains?

Neuroscientists must be able to regulate signal transmission and reception within brain circuits in order to comprehend the activities of the brain. Exocytosis causes a variety of neurotransmitters to be released from the vesicles, which then mediates communication between neuron and glial cells. Thus controlling vesicular exocytosis may be a way to influence and comprehend brain circuitry.

Using existing methods, however, it has been challenging to freely control the spatiotemporal activity of brain cells. One is an aberrant methodology that includes misleadingly controlling the film capability of cells, however it accompanies issues of changing the sharpness of the general climate or causing undesirable failing of neurons. In addition, it cannot be utilized in glial cells or other cells that do not respond to changes in membrane potential.

Opto-vTrap, a light-inducible and reversible inhibition system that can temporarily prevent vesicles from being released from brain cells, was developed by South Korean researchers led by Director C. Justin LEE at the Center for Cognition and Sociality within the Institute for Basic Science (IBS) and professor HEO Won Do at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST). Opto-vTrap can be used in any type of brain cell, even those that do not respond to membrane potential changes, because it directly targets transmitters that contain vesicles.

The researchers used a technology they had developed in 2014 called light-activated reversible inhibition by assembled trap (LARIAT) to directly control the exocytotic vesicles. When illuminated by blue light, this platform can immediately form a lariat-like trap to inactivate a variety of proteins. Using this LARIAT platform for vesicle exocytosis, Opto-vTrap was created. When Opto-vTrap-expressing cells or tissues are exposed to blue light, the vesicles cluster together and become stuck inside the cells, preventing transmitters from being released.

Most importantly, this new method causes only a brief inhibition, which is crucial for neuroscience research. Previous methods that target vesicle fusion proteins damage them permanently and disable the target neuron for up to 24 hours. This is not ideal for many short-term behavioral experiments. Opto-vTrap, on the other hand, declusters vesicles that have been inactivated and returns neurons to full functionality within an hour.

The release of the signal transmitters is directly controlled by Opto-vTrap, allowing the researchers to freely regulate brain activity. In cultured cells and brain tissue slices, the research team confirmed Opto-vTrap’s usability. They also tried the method on live mice, which they were able to temporarily erase from fear-conditioned animals.

Opto-vTrap will soon be used to find intricate connections between various brain regions. It will be a very useful tool for figuring out how certain kinds of brain cells affect how the brain works in different situations.

Noninvasive brain control | MIT News | Massachusetts Institute of Technology

He explained, “We plan to conduct a study to figure out the spatiotemporal brain functions in various brain cell types in a specific environment using Opto-vTrap technology.” Professor Heo stated, “Since Opto-vTrap can be used in various cell types, it is expected to be helpful in various fields of brain science research.”

Director Lee explains, “The usability of Opto-vTrap can extend not only to neuroscience but also to our lives.” “Opto-vTrap will contribute not only to elucidate brain circuit mapping but also treatment for epilepsy, treatment for muscle spasms, and technologies for skin tissue expansion,” he added.


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