Carefully crafted light pulses control neuron activity

Specially tailored, ultrafast pulses of light can trigger neurons to fire and could one day help patients with light-sensitive circadian or mood problems, according to a new study in mice at the University of Illinois. Chemists have used such carefully crafted light beams, called coherent control, to regulate chemical reactions, but this study is the first demonstration of using them to control function in a living cell. The study used optogenetic mouse neurons – that is, cells that had a gene added to make them respond to light.

Theory: Flexibility is at the heart of human intelligence

Centuries of study have yielded many theories about how the brain gives rise to human intelligence. Some neuroscientists think intelligence springs from a single region or neural network. Others argue that metabolism or the efficiency with which brain cells make use...