In a decade and a half, optogenetic control of neuronal activity has developed from a far-fetched idea to a widely used technique. Prof. Miesenböck explains how this happened, drawing on the earliest and latest results from his lab. To illustrate what is now possible, he presents recent work on the homeostatic regulation of sleep. Optogenetics has allowed us to pinpoint a homeostatic sleep switch in the brain, map its synaptic connections, and test mechanistic ideas of how the switch works.
Prof. Gero Miesenböck is the Waynflete Professor of Physiology and Founding Director of the Centre for Neural Circuits and Behaviour at the University of Oxford, UK. Before coming to Oxford in 2007, he held faculty appointments at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and Yale University.
Prof. Miesenböck has received numerous awards for the invention of optogenetics, including the InBev-Baillet Latour International Health Prize 2012, the Brain Prize 2013, the Heinrich Wieland Prize 2015, and the BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award 2015. He is an external member of the Austrian Academy of Sciences and a Fellow of the Royal Society.