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Scientists zap unruly brain cells with yellow, blue light

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Jane of the Jungle
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« on: April 13, 2010, 23:16:09 PM »

Hi all, I was watching Mega Engineering tonight and found the part where different colours of light has been tested for artificial underground future cities and specific the part about the effect that blue light have on us interesting.
Maybe you guys came across this before, but for those who didn’t ……use it, loose it Wink
WASHINGTON - Opening up new ways of understanding brain disorders, neuroscientists have developed a new class of tools to zap unruly brain activity with blue or yellow light.

These tools, targeting specific neurons (brain cells) could potentially open up new lines of treatment for abnormal brain activity in chronic pain, epilepsy, brain injury and Parkinson’s.

These new ’super silencers’ exert control over the timing in which overactive neural circuits are shut down, an effect that is not possible with existing drugs or conventional therapies.

“Silencing different sets of neurons with different colours of light allows us to understand how they work together to implement brain functions,” explains Ed Boyden, professor and senior study author at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

“Using these new tools, we can look at two neural pathways and study how they compute together,” says Boyden.

Boyden, associate member of the MIT McGovern Institute for Brain Research, calls brain disorders “some of the biggest unmet medical needs in the world”.

Boyden’s ’super silencers’ derive from two genes found in different natural organisms such as bacteria and fungi. These genes, referred to as Arch and Mac, are light-activated proteins that help the organisms make energy.

When Arch and Mac are placed within neurons, researchers can inhibit their activity by shining light on them.

Light activates the proteins, which lowers the voltage in the neurons and safely and effectively prevents them from firing. Arch is specifically sensitive to yellow light, while Mac is activated with blue light.

“In this way, the brain can be programmed with different colours of light to study and possibly correct the corrupted neural computations that lead to disease,” explains co-author Brian Chow, postdoctoral associate in Boyden’s lab, according to an MIT release.

Determining whether Arch and Mac are safe and effective in monkeys will be a critical next step towards the potential use of these optical silencing tools in humans.
Blue light regulates our biological clocks
Our eyes are not just used to see. They also monitor light for the purpose of setting our
biological clocks to a 24-hour day - the so-called circadian rhythm [1]. The biological clock
has been shown to respond preferentially to light in a band of wavelengths in the blue end
of the visible spectrum, which are close to the blue of a clear sky. Activation of specific
receptors in the eye in the morning leads to a sequence of events in the brain that wakes us
up and improves alertness. In the evening, when the available natural lighting moves
towards more red tones, the brain releases hormones which cause us to be more relaxed and
eventually leads to sleep. This process involves a part of the brain called the hypothalamus,
which plays a key role in driving many of the daily cycles in the body, such as changes in
metabolic activity and body temperature [1]. Controlling the circadian rhythm to light in
this way works outside of the normal processing of light for sight; it is not activated by the
usual receptor cells that trigger the visual process. This is neatly illustrated by the
observation that some blind people can still regulate their circadian rhythms, despite having
fully lost functional sight [2]. In essence, our eyes have effectively evolved to be blue-sky
Blue light and alertness
Recently, it has been demonstrated that blue-light directly improves alertness and
performance in sleep-deprived subjects, compared to bright-green light - the
colour of light to which sight is most sensitive [3]. Having disrupted subjects’
blue light made subjects less sleepy, react faster and attend better on
performance tasks. The research team concluded, “These findings add to
the body of evidence that illustrates that there is a novel photoreceptor
system that exists in the eye in addition to that used for sight. Light
exposure to this system, particularly blue light, directly reduces
sleepiness. Subjects exposed to blue light were able to sustain a high
level of alertness during the night when usually people feel most sleepy.”
Unsurprisingly, blue light also has the greatest capacity to increase
subjective measures of alertness during the morning

Designing learning spaces
The sensitivity of the biological clock to low-wavelength light is of particular interest when
considering the lighting environments in schools; here, as in most indoor lit environments,
fluorescent lighting is used which is predominantly weak in the blue end of the visible spectrum
(see Figure 1). Consequently, the lack of blue light in conventional, fluorescent light may not
represent the optimum lighting conditions for maintaining alertness in a classroom setting.
Ensuring as much natural light as possible enters learning environments should prove beneficial,
especially in the mornings when the biological clock is ‘waking up’ and being reset for the day
ahead. Given the unpredictability of British weather, it may be possible to use daylight bulbs,
which emit more strongly in the blue region of the spectrum, to achieve a similar effect.
The affect of light on circadian rhythms is also relevant when considering the use of computer
display monitors and television screens, which can emit strongly in the blue region of the
spectrum. Exposure to long periods of light from screens and monitors in the evening could
possibly be activating the biological pacemaker and disrupting sleeping patterns
. Roll Eyes

Maybe it is a good idea to set a few up in ones bedroom, especially if your not a morning person and for those cloudy days  Roll Eyes
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In solidarity with rwenzori: Κοπρος φανεται

« Reply #1 on: April 14, 2010, 08:23:09 AM »

The first article appears to be related to this fascinating development.

Jane of the Jungle
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« Reply #2 on: April 14, 2010, 10:15:41 AM »

Thanks Mefi it is Super Cool Amazing! 

I don’t know if this research has been completed but I would like to see how the results compare with optogenetics and solid-state optics when tested on humans.  It would also be interesting to know how regular such patient then must have this deep brain stimulation.

I would imagine, if successful, they would develop software to be downloaded to your Computer with a kind of virtual reality headset, viola there’s your prescription for the month Sir! Grin
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