How Novel Methods in Neuroscience Open up New Horizons in Research and Therapy

Beginning ten years ago, Karl Deisseroth and several of his students developed the most disruptive technology neuroscience had seen in a long time. Optogenetics is a method to control single kinds of brain cells with a light-triggered switch, allowing scientists to turn on and off specific cells and connections in the brain, and map neural circuits with extremely high precision. The technique was freely distributed to thousands of laboratories and launched a new era in neurobiology research and therapy. Deisseroth, who is also a practicing psychiatrist, applies his methods in the clinic to create better treatments for mental disorders. In the near future, new devices and treatments based on insights from optogenetics might be used to treat illnesses such as Parkinson’s disease, anxiety or schizophrenia. In 2013, Karl Deisseroth presented yet another game changing technique, which provides a way to make intact organs such as the mammalian brain transparent to light, allowing detailed insights into its structures and pathways. Since then, laboratories around the world have begun using the technique, called CLARITY, to gain 3-dimensional views of complex neural networks and map brain functions. At Falling Walls, Karl Deisseroth explains how optogenetics and CLARITY can shed light on, and ultimately help address, mental illnesses which still range among the least understood phenomena in medicine.

Karl Deisseroth

Stanford University

Karl Deisseroth is Professor of Bioengineering and Psychiatry and serves as Director of Undergraduate Education in Bioengineering at Stanford University. He earned his A.B. from Harvard and M.D. and Ph.D. from Stanford. He is also a practicing psychiatrist board-certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. Deisseroth has developed and applied novel technologies for controlling (optogenetics) and imaging (ClARITY) specific elements within intact biological systems. He continues to develop and apply new technologies to study physiology and behavior in health and disease, as well as train researchers around the world.

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