Research ArticleOPTOGENETICS

Optogenetic stimulation of cochlear neurons activates the auditory pathway and restores auditory-driven behavior in deaf adult gerbils

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Science Translational Medicine  11 Jul 2018:
Vol. 10, Issue 449, eaao0540
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aao0540

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Listening to light

Cochlear implants rely on electrical stimulation of the auditory nerve to provide a sense of sound to a person with severe hearing loss. However, the resolution of complex sounds is limited by the spreading of the current around the electrode. Wrobel et al. leveraged optogenetics to develop an optical cochlear implant that uses light for spatially and temporally precise stimulation of the auditory nerve in deaf adult gerbils. After virus-mediated expression of a light-sensitive protein in cochlear neurons, the optical implant was able to stimulate the auditory pathway and restored auditory-driven behavior in deaf gerbils. Further studies testing the resolution potential of optical cochlear implants are warranted.