Neurophotonics: optical methods to study and control the brain
a Lomonosov Moscow State University, Vorobevy Gory, Moscow, 119991, Russian Federation
b International Center for Quantum Optics and Quantum Technologies (the Russian Quantum Center), ul. Novaya 100, Skolkovo, Moscow Region, 143025, Russian Federation
c National Research Centre ‘Kurchatov Institute’, pl. akad. Kurchatova 1, Moscow, 123182, Russian Federation
d International Laser Center of M.V. Lomonosov Moscow State University, Vorobevy gory, Moscow, 119992, Russian Federation
e Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas, USA
Methods of optical physics offer unique opportunities for the investigation of brain and higher nervous activity. The integration of cutting-edge laser technologies and advanced neurobiology opens a new cross-disciplinary direction of natural sciences — neurophotonics, leading to the development of a vast arsenal of tools for functional brain diagnostics, stimulation of individual neurons and neural networks, as well as molecular engineering of brain cells aimed at a diagnosis and therapy of neurodegenerative and psychic diseases. Optical fibers suggest unique approaches helping to confront the most challenging problems in brain research, including the analysis of cellular and molecular mechanisms behind memory and cognition. Optical fibers of new generation offer new solutions for the development of fundamentally new, unique tools for neurophotonics and laser neuroengineering — fiber-optic neuroendoscopes and neurointerfaces. These instruments open new horizons for the investigation of the most complex brain functions, enabling a long-term multiplex detection of fluorescent protein markers, as well as photostimulation of neuronal activity in deep brain areas in living, freely behaving animals with an unprecedented spatial resolution and minimal invasiveness. This emerging technology opens new horizons for understanding learning and long-term memory through experiments with living, freely behaving mammals. Here, we offer a brief review of this rapidly growing field of research.