Using light to activate a few neurons in the cerebral cortex of a mouse can control its behavior
July 3, 2019

For the first time, a team of neuroscientists affiliated with the Data Science Institute have controlled a visual behavior of a mouse by activating a few neurons in its visual cortex. 

In their study, published in Cell, the researchers demonstrated that a group of neurons known as neuronal ensembles played a causal role in controlling the mouse’s behavior. The researchers used new optical and analytical tools to identify cortical ensembles in mice while they performed a visual task. They also used high-resolution optogenetics to simultaneously target selected neurons with single-cell precision, taking control of the mice’s behavior.  While the precise activation of neurons related to the task improved the performance of the animal, the activation of other neurons unrelated to the task degraded its behavior.