A Light Switch changes the Shape of Brain Proteins

Scientists at the Salk Institute in La Jolla have devised a new technique to study the brain. They have successfully manipulated the brains of mouse using light. The new findings have opened doors for scientists to illuminate long-standing mysteries about brain biology.

Lei Wang and his colleagues reported their findings in a paper published on Wednesday. They used light to alter specific proteins inside neurons. Wang was optimistic with the findings of their study to find what molecules are responsible for a particular behavior in neurons.

The technique was similar to the way switches are used to turn on lights. They implanted an LED in the brains of mice to turn on individual neurons and observed what happens.

The new technique is based on the same concept. Wang said, "Now we can control molecules instead of just controlling a cell. If you want to completely understand neuronal function, you need to be able to control different proteins inside the neuron".

Brain initiative was announced earlier this year by President Obama and these new findings will be of great use for the scientists involved in that. Researchers changed the shape of proteins in the brain of a mouse with the flick of a light switch, thereby turning on the protein at the precise moment they wanted.