A new study reveals that light-powered silicon wires can be used to provide electrical signals in the brain, according to an article published February 19, 2018.
A team of researchers at the University of Chicago, discovered a technique called optogenetics. This technique can help manipulate neural activity of the brain using light. A gene is required to be inserted into a target cell, which would enable the response to light.
The team constructed minuscule wires that are usually used for solar cells. These nanowires could sit side by side on the edge of a sheet of paper. They help in combining two types of silicon to create a small electrical current when struck by light.
“When the wire is in place and illuminated, the voltage difference between the inside and outside of the cell is slightly reduced. This lowers the barrier for the neuron to fire an electrical signal to its neighboring cells,” Tian, the lead author said.
The approach was tested with neurons of rats, which showed triggering of neurons to fire electrical signals.
This development hold great potential for understanding how these electrical signals work in the brain as well as can help treat disorders such as Parkinson’s disease or psychiatric disorders.