CB 399: Applications of Optogenetic and Chemogenetic Tools Spring 2016

 Applications of Optogenetic and Chemogenetic Tools


Course Director: Eleftheria Maratos-Flier, MD 

Course instructors: Elda Arrigoni, PhD; Melissa Chee, MD; Patrick Fuller, PhD

Curriculum Fellow: Christopher R. Burtner, PhD Christopher_Burtner@hms.harvard.edu 


Optogenetics and chemogenetics are invaluable technologies for neuroscience to study how specific cell types contribute to brain function. Light-sensitive probes (optogenetics) or synthetic receptors (chemogenetics) can be expressed in specific neuronal populations in order to explore neuronal activity in both ex vivo brain preparations and freely behaving animals. This is accomplished through the delivery of viruses that are activated in neurons of interest by genetic targeting, such as by using the cre lox system. This permits researchers to associate causal relationships between neural activity with behavioral and physiological consequences. In optogenetic studies, the delivery of light pulses activates the light-sensitive opsins (ion channels or pumps) to control their electrical activity. In comparison, chemogenetic systems use modified metabotropic or ionotropic receptors that respond to synthetic, pharmacologically inert ligands to control neuronal activity. Collectively, these methods for examining behavior and physiology are powerful tools for understanding brain function.

This nanocourse will:


·        introduce you to the variety of optogenetic and chemogenetic tools currently available

·        describe the methods of delivery and the instrumentation required

·        compare the advantages and limitations of these tools

·        use the hypothalamus as a case study to show the significant impact of these applications in neuroscience


The first of two meetings is an interactive lecture with the faculty. At the second meeting, you will complete the course assignment, and receive feedback on your work from your faculty and peers. At the end of this course, you will have explored how these genetic methods can be applied to your research field, and learn how others are using these approaches to answer a range of important questions.


Assignment: Propose a project related to your current field of study that applies optogenetic or chemogenetic tools. Please 1) define the hypothesis; 2) describe the rationale for choosing one approach versus the other; 3) discuss expected results, including possible outcomes that disprove your hypothesis; 4) outline potential problems and suggest alternative solutions. Present your proposal in an oral presentation for discussion.


Wednesday, April 20 (1:30pm - 5:00pm) Gordon Hall 106, Waterhouse Faculty Room (Recently Updated!)

Wednesday, April 27 (2:30pm - 5:00pm) TMEC 144 Student Orientation Room


DROP DEADLINE: Wednesday, April 13, 2016