Nongenetic optical neuromodulation with silicon-based materials

Yuanwen Jiang*, Ramya Parameswaran, Xiaojian Li, João L. Carvalho-de-Souza, Xiang Gao, Lingyuan Meng, Francisco Bezanilla, Gordon M G Shepherd, Bozhi Tian

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


Optically controlled nongenetic neuromodulation represents a promising approach for the fundamental study of neural circuits and the clinical treatment of neurological disorders. Among the existing material candidates that can transduce light energy into biologically relevant cues, silicon (Si) is particularly advantageous due to its highly tunable electrical and optical properties, ease of fabrication into multiple forms, ability to absorb a broad spectrum of light, and biocompatibility. This protocol describes a rational design principle for Si-based structures, general procedures for material synthesis and device fabrication, a universal method for evaluating material photoresponses, detailed illustrations of all instrumentation used, and demonstrations of optically controlled nongenetic modulation of cellular calcium dynamics, neuronal excitability, neurotransmitter release from mouse brain slices, and brain activity in the mouse brain in vivo using the aforementioned Si materials. The entire procedure takes ~4–8 d in the hands of an experienced graduate student, depending on the specific biological targets. We anticipate that our approach can also be adapted in the future to study other systems, such as cardiovascular tissues and microbial communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1339-1376
Number of pages38
JournalNature Protocols
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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