Optogenetics and Plasticity of Neural Systems in Aging
Neural systems undergo profound changes as individual ages. Observations made in human clinical studies have led to a number of important postulations on the behavioral significance of neural activity changes in older adults. Such neural plastic changes with age include a decrease in inhibition of unnecessary or undesirable neural activity or an increase of neural activities in additional brain regions presumably in response to functional declines in primary neural circuits. However, empirical evidence has been lacking to determine the causal relationships between these neural activity changes and the behavioral outcomes. In addition, it is not known whether reversing these neural activity changes would alter the associated age-related behavioral outcomes. Recent development and advances in optogenetic technologies has enabled the ability to control the level of neural activities at a single neuron level in living model organisms through the control of light at appropriate wavelengths. To explore research on aging neural systems utilizing these new powerful technology, DN plans to convene an exploratory workshop in Bethesda, MD on August 2, 2012. Participants of the workshop will include experts in optogenetic technologies and their applications in systems neuroscience as well as experts in aging neural systems using animal models or in human clinical studies. The outcome of the meeting may include a publication of the viewpoints presented at the workshop in an appropriate peer-reviewed journal.