Infrared Neural Inhibition
Targeted optical manipulation of the nervous system has become an exciting new possibility in recent years. Using infrared lasers, it is possible to deliver light to tissues with high spatial and temporal specificity and inhibit signal conduction in nerves in rats and sea slugs. It appears that this neural inhibition is driven by temperature rise in nerves as a result of infrared irradiation. Initial studies postulate that, at higher temperatures, potassium currents overwhelm sodium currents, leading to action potential failure. We, using computational modeling, are seeking to examine and analyze the role of potassium ion channels in the infrared inhibition of nerves, and the effect of scaling of axon diameter to see the applicability of these results to small-diameter unmyelinated axons, such as vertebrate C fibers. Future efforts will include validating modeling conclusions through experiments, creating models for infrared neural stimulation, and scaling up the model to mimic realistic neural physiology found in higher animals.