Neurophotonics • Open AccessInfrared neural stimulation: a new stimulation tool for central nervous system applications
The traditional approach to modulating brain function (in both clinical and basic science applications) is to tap into the neural circuitry using electrical currents applied via implanted electrodes. However, it suffers from a number of problems, including the risk of tissue trauma, poor spatial specificity, and the inability to selectively stimulate neuronal subtypes. About a decade ago, optical alternatives to electrical stimulation started to emerge in order to address the shortcomings of electrical stimulation. We describe the use of one optical stimulation technique, infrared neural stimulation (INS), during which short (of the order of a millisecond) pulses of infrared light are delivered to the neural tissue. Very focal stimulation is achieved via a thermal mechanism and stimulation location can be quickly adjusted by redirecting the light. After describing some of the work done in the peripheral nervous system, we focus on the use of INS in the central nervous system to investigate functional connectivity in the visual and somatosensory areas, target specific functional domains, and influence behavior of an awake nonhuman primate. We conclude with a positive outlook for INS as a tool for safe and precise targeted brain stimulation.