Halpern, for instance, studies feeding behavior, and would like to understand how activating or inhibiting specific groups of neurons change the way mice eat. The ability to test that question right in the animal’s cage without a human in the room makes it more likely the animal will behave normally.
Wentz says that while the cost of the initial setup is comparable to a single laser system, it can be scaled up far more cheaply. This, coupled with the ability to remotely control experiments, would make it easier to conduct optogenetics experiments in a high-throughput fashion.
Kendall Research plans to make it possible to collect data from the brain through the device. The data could then be wirelessly transmitted to a computer. Sanjay Magavi, a research scientist at Vertex Pharmaceuticals, says while “it isn’t yet clear how this will be used in industry,” there’s increasing interest in using optogenetics in animals to develop more sophisticated models of disease for preclinical drug testing.