Optogenetics on a mouse

Popular tools for Photostimulation


In neuroscience, understanding the brain’s intricate workings relies not only on anatomical insights but also on the ability to manipulate neuronal activity precisely. 

Optogenetics has emerged as a powerful technique, shedding light on neural circuit dynamics with remarkable precision. Choosing the right photostimulation tools from many options can be tough. In this article, we’ll delve into the landscape of popular photostimulation tools, examining their strengths, weaknesses, and practical applications.

What is Photostimulation?

Photostimulation involves using light to activate or inhibit specific neurons genetically engineered to express light-sensitive proteins like channelrhodopsins or halorhodopsins. This technique allows researchers to exert precise control over neuronal activity, providing insights into neural circuitry and behavior.

Methods that Can be Used

  1. Full Field LED Stimulation:

Full field LED stimulation offers a cost-effective and versatile approach to optogenetics.[1] Its simplicity and compatibility with other techniques, such as electrophysiology, make it popular among researchers. With a range of available colors, LED stimulation provides flexibility in experimental design. However, researchers must consider the precision of control and potential gating issues, especially when integrating with fluorescence imaging.[2]

  1. Built-in Fiber Optic Stimulation:

Built-in fiber optic stimulation enables precise targeting and reduced illumination volume.[3] By implanting a fiber optic near the target area, researchers can achieve localized photostimulation, ideal for investigating single-cell or dendritic responses. This method’s compatibility with freely moving animal experiments and concurrent recording of brain oscillations enhances its utility in neuroscience research.

  1. Galvo-CW Stimulation:

Galvo-CW stimulation provides intricate control over stimulation patterns and timing.[4] Through a Galvo-galvo scanner, researchers can select various stimulation patterns with precise temporal control. This method’s compatibility with electrophysiology and additional laser sources expands its utility in network modulation studies. While limited to two-dimensional stimulation, Galvo-CW’s affordability and versatility make it a compelling option for many research endeavors.

Advanced Photostimulation Methods

  1. Two-Photon Photostimulation:

Two-photon photostimulation harnesses femtosecond laser sources to modulate neuronal populations with remarkable precision.[1] This method offers the unique advantage of activating even single cells or dendritic segments, thanks to its sub-µm³ excitation volume during scanning. Moreover, its enhanced penetration depth facilitates targeting deeper neuronal ensembles, extending into regions like cortical layer 5 or the hippocampal CA3 and dentate gyrus.

  1. Holographic Optogenetics:

Holographic optogenetics represents the pinnacle of advanced techniques, offering unparalleled versatility and precision.[2] Central to this method is the spatial light modulator (SLM), which enables the formation of intricate 3D patterns for precise optogenetic tasks. By combining holography with either CW or femtosecond pulse laser sources, researchers can achieve simultaneous stimulation of subpopulations of neurons across multiple targeted planes. However, challenges such as energy distribution among regions of interest (ROIs) and optical path intensity loss must be considered.

  1. Acousto-Optical Photostimulation:

Acousto-optical photostimulation, although still in its nascent stages, holds promise as a high-speed scanning method.[3] Leveraging sound-modulated focusing akin to 2P imaging, this technique enables rapid scanning across samples, facilitating dynamic intensity adjustments between ROIs. While offering advantages such as energy preservation and scanning flexibility, increasing the number of stimulation ROIs may compromise speed. Despite its current limited availability, acousto-optical photostimulation is poised to revolutionize neuroscience research, albeit potentially at a premium price.


Choosing the right tools for photostimulation is crucial for advancing our understanding of neural circuits. Each method offers unique advantages suited to specific experimental needs. 

By exploring the details of these methods, researchers can understand the complexities of the brain better and make significant discoveries.

Would you like to learn more about Optogenetics? Check our blog at https://conductscience.com/what-is-optogenetics/


  1. Boyden, E. S. (2011). A history of optogenetics: the development of tools for controlling brain circuits with light. F1000 Biology Reports, 3, 11.
  2. Yizhar, O., Fenno, L. E., Davidson, T. J., Mogri, M., & Deisseroth, K. (2011). Optogenetics in neural systems. Neuron, 71(1), 9-34.
  3. Aravanis, A. M., Wang, L. P., Zhang, F., Meltzer, L. A., Mogri, M. Z., Schneider, M. B., … & Deisseroth, K. (2007). An optical neural interface: in vivo control of rodent motor cortex with integrated fiberoptic and optogenetic technology. Journal of Neural Engineering, 4(3), S143.
  4. Carrillo-Reid, L., Han, S., Yang, W., Akrouh, A., & Yuste, R. (2019). Controlling Visually Guided Behavior by Holographic Recalling of Cortical Ensembles. Cell, 178(2), 447-457.
Picture of  Vanja Antonijevic
Vanja Antonijevic

Vanja works as the Social Media and Academic Program Manager at Conduct Science. With a Bachelor's degree in Molecular Biology and Physiology and a Master's degree in Human Molecular Biology, Vanja is dedicated to sharing scientific knowledge on social media platforms. Additionally, Vanja provides direct support to the editorial board at Conduct Science Academic Publishing House.

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