As alluded to below in Neville’s post… here’s the link to the full paper, with a more complete description.
My lab, the Neuroengineering And Neuromedia Group at the MIT Media Lab, has just released a new neurotechnology. We found that just as the algal protein channelrhodopsin-2 (ChR2) can make neurons excitable by brief pulses of blue light, the mammalian codon-optimized version of the protein halorhodopsin (we abbreviate the mammalian codon-optimized form as Halo) can make neurons silenceable by brief pulses of yellow light. Furthermore, the activity of neurons expressing both Halo and ChR2 can be controlled bi-directionally by pulses of blue and yellow light respectively. This toolbox enables extremely sophisticated new kinds of experiment – such as being able to desynchronize neuronal spiking (without altering mean spike rate)! The paper just came out in PLoSONE, a new PLoS journal that encourages papers to become living documents — any reader can comment on any paper.
You can check out, and then comment on, the paper, “Multiple-color optical activation, silencing, and desynchronization of neural activity, with single-spike temporal resolution,” here.