$3.8 million to help explore brain’s circuitry using light

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From the WUSTL Newsroom…

As part of the White House BRAIN Initiative, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have received two grants to develop tools to map and activate pathways in the brain using light.

With $3.8 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the researchers, with collaborators at the University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, will study how light-sensitive proteins can be used to control specific brain circuits. The goal is to understand how the brain is wired to regulate responses to stress, including anxiety and depression.

“Many animal proteins have built-in ways to respond to light, and we want to harness those light-sensitive properties and use them to get cells in the brain to respond to light,” said principal investigator Michael R. Bruchas, associate professor of anesthesiology and of neuroscience. “That way we can use light to turn cells on and off to better understand how things are connected.”

The BRAIN (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies) Initiative was launched by President Barack Obama in 2013 with the aim of furthering cutting-edge research to help scientists better understand the human brain.

One of the new projects builds on previous research in several Washington University laboratories, including those of Bruchas, N. Gautam, professor of anesthesiology and of genetics, and Robert W. Gereau IV, the Dr. Seymour and Rose T. Brown Professor of Anesthesiology and director of the Washington University Pain Center.

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Posted on October 20, 2016
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