Many questions in cognitive neuroscience regarding the molecular, cellular and circuit-level underpinnings of behavior still remain unresolved due to the trade-off between temporal and spatial specificity. Since optogenetic tools have become available to the scientific community, numerous studies have applied this method successfully to answer such questions.
The advantage of optogenetics over other neuromodulation techniques is its high-temporal specificity combined with cellular precision. For example, although electrical manipulation has a high temporal resolution, it is unable to achieve true inactivation or excitation of individual neurons.
Pharmacological and genetic manipulations show the opposite pattern, they can target at least certain kinds or families of neurons but are lacking temporal precision (Fenno et al., 2011). Optogenetics can be applied to very diverse research topics, even outside neuroscience.
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