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Fellowship Description

Research program title

Nanoscience meets neuroscience: enhancement of optogenetic methods by means of nanoparticles

Reference number



Program description

Optogenetic methods are revolutionizing neuroscience research by providing an unprecedented combination of cell-type specificity and temporal control over neural activity. Light-sensitive proteins called opsins are expressed in genetically defined neural populations. Depending on the opsin, optical activation either stimulates or silences neural activity. These molecules thus provide powerful tools for determining the sufficiency or necessity of signaling in a defined neural population for a given behaviour or physiological process. However, application of these methods is restricted spatially: the wavelengths effective for opsin activation undergo significant scattering in tissue. To circumvent this problem, upconverting nanoparticles (UCNPs) will be distributed in target brain regions. The UCNPs are tuned to absorb photons at near-IR wavelengths and to upconvert their energy into emissions at shorter wavelengths well-suited for opsin activation. Near-IR wavelengths penetrate deeply into tissue, thus enabling control of entire neural populations in large brain regions. Distribution of UCNPs in brain tissue will be imaged, and their effectiveness as intermediaries in optogenetic activation will be assessed by electrochemical and behavioural means. This is an opportunity to learn and extend cutting-edge methods at the intersection of nanoscience and neuroscience.

Academic qualifications required

  • PhD in a discipline related to chemistry, neuroscience, or both
  • Research experience in the physical and life sciences
  • Expertise in optics, optogenetics and microscopy desirable
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