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Karl Deisseroth from Stanford Medical Center to Speak about Optogenetics

The Southwestern College Psychology Speaker Series continues on Thursday, April 25, with special guest Karl Deisseroth from the Stanford Medical Center.  The lecture will be held in Mossman 101 at 3 p.m.  There is no admission charge and community members are invited to attend.

Deisseroth’s appearance is being made possible by a special gift from the Snyder Foundation.

This will be a presentation of groundbreaking research that uses light to turn on and off behaviors that are typically found in schizophrenia, autism, and anxiety disorders.  The title of the presentation is “Optogenetics: development and applications.”
Deisseroth, professor of psychiatry and behavioral science and of bioengineering, received both his medical and doctoral degrees from Stanford and has been on the faculty since 2005. He focuses on developing optical, molecular, and cellular tools to observe, perturb, and re-engineer brain circuits. He also sees patients in the psychiatry department with autism spectrum, anxiety, and depression.

In 2006, Deisseroth coined the word “optogenetics” to describe his invention of technology by which nerve cells in living animals are rendered photosensitive in order to allow action in these cells to be turned on or off by different wavelengths of light. Deisseroth’s optogenetic technology has made his stunning research on autism, schizophrenia, and anxiety possible. In each case, he has been able to use light to switch on and off behavior in mice.

Optogenetics involves selectively bioengineering specific types of nerve cells so that they respond to light. Then, by delivering pulses of light via optical fibers to specific brain areas, researchers can target particular nerve-cell types and particular cell-to-cell connections or nervous pathways leading from one brain region to another. Because the fiber-optic hookup is flexible and pain-free, the experimental animals’ actual behavior as well as their brain activity can be monitored.

For more information, contact Carrie Lane, associate professor of psychology, at (620) 229-6296.