Spotlight on Movement Disorders: What Optogenetics Has to Offer

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Elucidating the neuronal mechanisms underlying movement disorders is a major challenge because of the intricacy of the relevant neural circuits, which are characterized by diverse cell types and complex connectivity. A major limitation of traditional techniques, such as electrical stimulation or lesions, is that individual elements of a neural circuit cannot be selectively manipulated. Moreover, available treatments are largely based on trial and error rather than a detailed understanding of the circuit mechanisms. Gaps in our knowledge of the circuit mechanisms for movement disorders, as well as mechanisms underlying known treatments such as deep brain stimulation, make it difficult to design new and improved treatment options. In this perspective, we discuss how optogenetics, which allows researchers to use light to manipulate neuronal activity, can contribute to the understanding and treatment of movement disorders. We outline the advantages and limitations of optogenetics and discuss examples of studies that have used this tool to clarify the role of the basal ganglia circuitry in movement. © 2015 International Parkinson and Movement Disorder Society

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