Optogenetics: Stanford discovers wirelessly powering implanted devices technique

Scientists representing the Stanford Bio-X have built an implantable device that can provide optogenetic nerve stimulations powered by movements. The research team removed bulky external equipment to allow mice implanted with this new unit move around more freely. This has provided the researchers with a better opportunity of observing procedures boasting the potential of triggering advancement in neuro-scientific research.

For those who don’t know: optogenetic methods monitor and control genetically preconditioned neurons for responding to light using light. The majority of the experts believe that this technology is the best one created to date for comprehending the mystery of brain functions, mechanics involved in brain failures and psychiatric disorders caused by those failures.

Application of optogenetics on mice has revealed some really useful facts about Parkinson’s tremors. Scientists have also come across a range of essential information about potential stroke treatments and mechanics involves in pain.

Earlier scientists used to deliver light pulses onto the mice externally after mounting external headgear on them. Prof. Ada Poon of the Stanford University wanted to create a more sophisticated method of delivering stimulation. She also wanted the method to be less obstructive to the natural behavior of mice.

The bulky headgear created different problems for the mice; they used to find it difficult to navigate through the tunnels, carry out jobs like burrowing, and perform several such tasks that might play significant roles as far as the experiment is concerned.

Poon informed that to study anxiety and depression, two extremely misunderstood mental health issues, scientists often need to use components like mazes and a range of complex movements, which are almost impossible to do for mice wearing helmet.


The most significant challenge faced by the device was identifying a means of getting powered efficiently without causing any damage to any electrical component or using any external wire. Poon along with Prof. John Ho of the National University of Singapore has published a write-up in the widely read journal Physical Review Applied. There, they have explained a way of using the bodily movements of mice for transferring radio frequency energy.

The actual study by Poon and her team has been published in the journal Nature Methods. It describes how the research team added energy harvesting procedures into an implantable device, which is as big as a peppercorn. Using the device, scientists managed to manipulate the rodent’s spinal cord, peripheral nerve endings, and brain.