Using Infrared Laser Light to Modulate Neural Activity: Current State and Future Challenges

As the neuroscience community worldwide continues to unravel the mysteries of the nervous system and the brain, it is imperative that novel tools and technologies are required to continue to study and manipulate neurons on ever smaller spatial and temporal levels. Without a doubt photonic technologies will play a major role in this quest. As alternative and complimentary technology to optogenetic techniques which rely on the expression of (foreign) rhodopsin genes, my lab has developed a different way of stimulating and inhibiting neurons using infrared pulsed laser light by taking advantage of absorption of those wavelength by endogenous chromophores already abundantly present in biological tissue. I will present an overview of the concepts and applications of infrared nerve stimulation and inhibition with a focus on characterization of this technique, mechanistic studies, computational models to simulation infrared neural modulation as well as on several applications, in particular our efforts to use this technology to control chronic pain.

Speaker Biography: E. Duco Jansen is Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Neurosurgery at Vanderbilt University. He received a MS degree in Medical Biology (University of Utrecht, 1990) and MS and PhD degrees in Biomedical Engineering (University of Texas at Austin, 1992 and 1994). He served as Interim Department Chair in the Biomedical Engineering Department in 2016. His research interests include novel approaches to optically probe and manipulate the neural system, mechanisms of pulsed laser ablation of tissue, cellular and biochemical responses of biological tissue to laser radiation, and medical applications of lasers. He has published nearly 400 scholarly articles, book chapters and conference abstracts/proceedings. Dr. Jansen is a Fellow of the SPIE (The International Society for Optics and Photonics), AIMBE (American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering) and ASLMS (American Society for Laser Surgery and Medicine). He served as President of the latter in 2010/11. He served as Director of Graduate Studies in his home department from 2008-2013. From 2013-2018 he served as Associate Dean for Graduate Studies in the Vanderbilt University School of Engineering where he currently is the Senior Associate Dean for Graduate Education and Faculty Affairs.

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