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A field of biological science that studies the use of light to control living cells, particularly in neural cells. Lower-level organisms such as worms, which allow identifying the function of single neuronal cells, have been vital in expanding this field of study. Through these organisms, researchers have been able to study and develop systems for controlling cellular response to light (R).

Optogenetics is also applicable to larger organisms such as humans, through applications that are much more complex. There are dramatic limitations placed on researchers trying to probe and control the brain function of these more complex organisms.

A defining characteristic of optogenetics is the used of gene-editing techniques to achieve responsiveness to light. This can be either directly through sequence-editing techniques on the host organism or indirectly through editing done on implanted cells into the host.

Early approaches to manipulating neuronal activity found success by altering protein functions that controlled certain ionic channels (R). These early breakthroughs helped inspire more research studies and paved the way for newer, out-of-the-box approaches.

A class of proteins known as opsins are among the most popular targets of Optogenetic study and can provide millisecond-level control over certain neurological processes. These proteins are naturally sensitive to light and inherent to many organisms including single-cell bacteria and complex organisms such as us humans. This commonality among species makes opsins ideal targets both for study and therapeutic development.