Factors That Affect The Brain And The Central Nervous System ( Cns ) Of Mammals

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Francis Crick articulated that in order to better understand the brain, scientists would need to be able to control specific types of cells or individual neurons (Crick, 1979). He stated that if this was possible, researchers could activate a single neuron and watch the cascade of other neurons being activated. Or inhibit a neuron and observe what other cells around it followed. Crick continues and believed that this would someday be possible. His knowledge of the visual system, a system of the brain that responds to light, must of led to his thoughts that we could create neurons that express a sensitivity to light in every division of the brain. It is now possible to control specific cell types with high temporal and spatial precision in the central nervous system (CNS) of mammals. In the past, electrical stimulation has been able to target areas of the brain with temporal precision, but was unable to be cell specific; electric current will stimulate every type of cell in the area of effect (You, 1998). Drug research in the past has been able to target specific types of cells, but lacks the ability to target specific areas. An example of this, haloperidol, is a dopamine inverse agonist. Haloperidol blocks dopamine transmission on D2 receptors all over the brain (Seeman, 1998). The modern procedure described in the coming pages, optogenetics, overcomes both of these obstacles. The development of optogenetics was cultivated from several different fields of science. The microbial opsins involved in optogenetics are similar to the photoreceptor cells produced in the human eye. Photoreceptor cells contain a pigment called retinal, which transforms electromagnetic radiation (light) into electrical signals that are sent further into ... ... middle of paper ... ...equent immune response (Chow & Boyden, 2013). Human opsins, such as rhodopsin in the human eye, could be installed into neurons but these cells are slower than the microbial ones currently in use for optogenetics. Gene therapy is advancing everyday and it is possible that some day humans could reap the benefits of the precision actions optogenetics has to offer. Even if optogenetics remains as purely a research tool and does not give rise to beneficial effects directly in our species, it has still offered humans an unparalleled look into the function and dysfunction of the nervous system. Optogenetics has been adopted in laboratories around the world and enabled scientists to increase or decrease the activity of exclusive brain expanses on command. Great insight has been obtained through the use of this research tool and a great deal more has yet to be discovered.

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