SfN Virtual Conference: Next Generation Optogenetics — Tools and Applications

Virtual Conference Details

Thursday, September 20, 2018 | 10:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. EDT

Optogenetics is a powerful technique that combines genetic and optical methods to enable precise manipulation of living cells and investigation of neural circuitry and brain function for a variety of research applications.

In this virtual conference — organized by Alexandra Nelson (University of California, San Francisco) and Veronica Alvarez (NIH Intramural Research Program/NIAAA) — speakers will explore the frontier of optogenetics tools and applications and discuss where optogenetic technologies are headed.

This conference serves as the culmination of SfN’s inaugural training series on optogenetics, developed in partnership with global neuroscience leaders. While it is recommended you view some resources before attending the virtual conference, you can participate without doing so.  

Advances you will hear about in the virtual conference include:

  • Development of next generation opsins and technologies.
  • Integration of optogenetics with complementary techniques, including electrophysiology, imaging of calcium and membrane potential, anatomical methods, and behavior.
  • The utility of optogenetics in different species, including Drosophila, zebrafish, and non-human primates.
  • Potential emerging clinical and therapeutic applications of optogenetics tools.

View Full Agenda



Karl Deisseroth
Karl Deisseroth, MD, PhD
Karl Deisseroth is the D.H. Chen Professor of Bioengineering and of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University, and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator. He received his AB from Harvard, his MD from Stanford, and his PhD from Stanford in 1998. He launched his lab at Stanford in July 2004, where he and his team developed optogenetics and hydrogel-tissue chemistry.
His lab has worked on developing and applying high-resolution tools for controlling and mapping specific well-defined elements within intact and fully-assembled biological systems. The lab develops and applies these and other tools (integrated with optical, electrophysiological, computational, molecular, and behavioral approaches) for the study of neural physiology and behavior in freely-moving mammals. His lab is interested both in natural behaviorally-relevant neural circuit dynamics, and in pathological dynamics underlying neuropsychiatric disease symptomatology and treatment. Twenty-three alumni from his lab (including SfN’s Optogenetics Training Series faculty Viviana Gradinaru, Talia Lerner, Ed Boyden, and Vikaas Sohal) have moved on to tenure-track faculty positions.

Deisseroth was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2012. Deisseroth was the sole recipient (for optogenetics) of the 2010 Koetser Prize, 2010 Nakasone Prize, 2013 Lounsbery Prize, 2014 Dickson Prize in Science, 2015 Keio Prize, 2015 Lurie Prize, 2015 Albany Prize, 2015 Dickson Prize in Medicine, 2017 Redelsheimer Prize, 2017 Fresenius Prize, 2018 Eisenberg Prize, 2018 Leibinger Prize, and 2018 Kyoto Prize. Deisseroth also received several additional awards for optogenetics including the Zuelch Prize (2012), Perl Prize (2012), BRAIN Prize (2013), Pasarow Prize (2013), Breakthrough Prize (2015), BBVA Award (2016), Massry Prize (2017), Canada Gairdner Award (2018) and Harvey Prize from the Technion in Israel (2018).
Ed Boyden
Ed Boyden, PhD
Ed Boyden is a professor of biological engineering and brain and cognitive sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab and McGovern Institute. He leads the Synthetic Neurobiology Group, which develops tools for analyzing and repairing complex biological systems and applies them systematically to reveal principles of biological function as well as to repair these systems. He received his PhD in neuroscience as a Hertz Fellow at Stanford University, where he discovered the molecular mechanisms used to store a memory are determined by the content to be learned. Before that, he received three degrees in electrical engineering, computer science, and physics from MIT. He is an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2017), has contributed to more than 400 peer-reviewed papers and granted or pending patents, and has given over 400 invited talks on his group's work.
Michael Bruchas
Michael R. Bruchas, PhD
Michael R. Bruchas is a professor in the department of anesthesiology and pain medicine and the Center for Neurobiology of Addiction, Pain, and Emotion at the University of Washington. He was previously the Henry Elliot Mallinckrodt Professor of Anesthesiology at Washington University School of Medicine. He was recruited as an assistant professor and was rapidly promoted to associate professor with tenure with appointments in the departments of anesthesiology, neuroscience, psychiatry, and biomedical engineering. Bruchas’ laboratory focuses on understanding how brain circuits are wired and how they communicate with one another via chemical transmitters, and dissecting the neural basis of stress, emotion, and reward. He has led more than 67 peer-reviewed publications and book chapters, and delivered lectures worldwide. Bruchas has served on several NIH review panel and is now chair of the Molecular Neuropharmacology and Signaling Panel. In 2012, he received the NIH Director's Transformative Research award, in 2013 the NIH EUREKA award, and in 2014 the Young Investigator Award from the International Narcotics Research Conference. In 2016, his laboratory was awarded funding from the NIH BRAIN Initiative for two cutting-edge research projects to dissect brain circuits. Bruchas received both his BS in biology and his PhD in pharmacology from Creighton University. He completed his fellowship in neuroscience at the University of Washington, where he spent his postdoctoral research efforts examining how the brain encodes emotional behaviors and how stress impacts anxiety, depression, and addiction.
Yoon Seok Kim
Yoon Seok Kim, MS
Yoon Seok Kim is a PhD candidate in bioengineering at Stanford University. He is currently working in Karl Deisseroth’s lab and is being co-advised by Brian Kobilka. He is working on structure-function relationship and structure-guided enhancement of optogenetic tools. He received his BS and MS at Stanford University.
Viviana Gradinaru
Viviana Gradinaru, PhD
Viviana Gradinaru a professor of neuroscience and biological engineering at Caltech. Gradinaru’s research interests focus on developing tools and methods for neuroscience (optogenetic actuators and sensors, tissue clearing and imaging, and gene delivery vehicles) and using them to characterize circuits underlying locomotion, reward, and sleep, with the goal to inform deep brain stimulation and better understand the underlying mechanisms of action. Gradinaru received the NIH Director’s New Innovator Award, Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, inaugural Peter Gruss Young Investigator Award by the Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience, Early Career Scientist Winner in the Innovators in Science Award in Neuroscience (Takeda and the New York Academy of Sciences), and Gill Transformative award. She has been honored as a World Economic Forum Young Scientist and one of Cell’s 40 under 40. Gradinaru is also a Sloan Fellow, Pew Scholar, Moore Inventor, Vallee Scholar, and Allen Brain Institute NGL Council Member. Gradinaru has also been active in teaching and service, participating with lab members in regular technology training workshops at Caltech and summer courses at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. She also runs the CLOVER Center (Beckman Institute for CLARITY, Optogenetics, and Vector Engineering), which provides training and access to the group's reagents and methods for the broader research community. Gradinaru completed her BS at Caltech and her PhD at Stanford University.
Bernardo Sabatini
Bernardo Sabatini, MD, PhD
Bernardo Sabatini is the Alice and Rodman W. Moorhead III Professor of Neurobiology at Harvard Medical School (HMS) and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. His laboratory focuses on understanding the function and regulation of synapses in the mammalian brain, with a particular focus on these processes in the basal ganglia. Sabatini's laboratory creates new optical and chemical methods to observe and manipulate the biochemical signaling associated with synapse function. He obtained a PhD from the department of neurobiology at HMS and his MD from the Harvard/Massachusetts Institute of Technology Program in Health Sciences and Technology. Sabatini did a postdoctoral fellowship in the laboratory of Karel Svoboda at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.
Liqun Luo
Liqun Luo, PhD
Liqun Luo is the Ann and Bill Swindells Professor of Humanities and Sciences, professor of biology at Stanford University, where he teaches neurobiology to undergraduate and graduate students, and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator. With his postdoctoral fellows and graduate students, Luo studies the logic of brain wiring using genetic tools. They have developed mosaic marking systems in flies and mice and used them to study how signals are transduced from cell surface receptors to the cytoskeleton, how neuronal processes are pruned, and how neural circuits are organized and built. Luo published a single-author neuroscience textbook, Principles of Neurobiology (Garland Science 2015). He has served on the editorial boards of scientific journals, including Neuron, Life, and Annual Review of Neuroscience, and has served on the Pew Scholar National Committee and Scientific Advisory Committee of Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation. He is recipient of the McKnight Technological Innovation in Neuroscience Award, SfN Young Investigator Award, Jacob Javits Award from National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, HW Mossman Award from American Association of Anatomists, and Lawrence Katz Prize. Luo is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a fellow of AAAS. Luo earned his Bachelor's degree in molecular biology from the University of Science and Technology of China, obtained his PhD from Brandeis University, and completing postdoctoral training at the University of California, San Francisco.
Talia Lerner
Talia N. Lerner, PhD
Talia Lerner is an assistant professor of physiology at Northwestern University. Her research focuses on understanding the neural circuits underlying motivation, reward processing, and habit formation. She earned her BS in molecular biophysics and biochemistry from Yale University and PhD in neuroscience from the University of California, San Francisco, and she completed postdoctoral training at Stanford University.
Vanessa Ruta
Vanessa Ruta, PhD
Vanessa Ruta is an associate professor and head of the Laboratory of Neurophysiology and Behavior at Rockefeller University. The central focus of the Ruta lab is to explore how neural circuits can be flexibly modified through individual experience or over evolution to generate adaptive variations in behavior. By applying a broad, multidisciplinary toolkit to study the concise chemosensory circuits of the fly, Ruta's goal is to reveal how these pathways mediate fixed and flexible behaviors at the level of synaptic, cellular, and circuit motifs. Ruta is the recipient of a number of fellowships and awards, including a McKnight Scholar Award, Pew Biomedical Scholar Award, NIH New Innovator Award, and Sloan Foundation Research Fellowship. She was also named a Robertson Neuroscience Investigator by the New York Stem Cell Foundation. Ruta received a PhD from Rockefeller University, where she worked with Rod MacKinnon to define the structural basis for voltage-sensing in voltage-dependent ion channels. During her postdoctoral training, she transitioned from studying structure-function relationships at the molecular level to examining the functional architecture of neural circuits in Drosophila in Richard Axel's lab at Columbia University.
Misha Ahrens
Misha Ahrens, PhD
Misha Ahrens is a group leader at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Janelia Research Campus. His lab uses zebrafish to study how the brain learns and controls behavior. Their research goal is to understand, on the whole-brain but single-cell level, how entire neural circuits generate adaptable behaviors and how plasticity reorganizes the functional properties of these circuits to implement learned changes in behavior. They use advances in microscopy, genetics, and virtual reality for zebrafish to study the neural basis of such adaptive behaviors. Ahrens earnedd his BA in mathematics and physics at Cambridge University and his PhD in computational neuroscience in the Gatsby Computational Neuroscience Unit at University College London. He was a Sir Henry Wellcome Postdoctoral Fellow, working in the Engert Lab, at Harvard University.
Azadeh Yazdan-Shahmorad
Azadeh Yazdan-Shahmorad, PhD
Azadeh Yazdan-Shahmorad directs the Neuroengineering and Neurorehabilitation Laboratory and is the Washington Research Foundation Innovation Assistant Professor of Neuroengineering in the departments of bioengineering and electrical engineer at the University of Washington. The focus of her lab is on developing novel neural interfaces and investigating the plasticity mechanism of the brain. The goal is to use neural technologies to develop stimulation-based therapies to help restore function and mobility in people with neurological disorders such as stroke. She is also a core staff scientist at the Washington National Primate Research center and a faculty member at the Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering and University of Washington Institute for Neuroengineering. Yazdan-Shahmorad received a Bachelor's in biomedical engineering at Tehran Polytechnic University in Iran and a Master's degree in biomedical engineering at Tehran Polytechnic University in Iran. She earned a PhD in biomedical engineering from the University of Michigan and then was a postdoctoral scholar at the University of California, San Francisco, where developed new tools and techniques for implementing optogenetics in non-human primates and studied targeted plasticity in sensorimotor connections. She joined the University of Washington in fall 2017 as the Washington Research Foundation Innovation Assistant Professor of Neuroengineering in the departments of Bioengineering and Electrical Engineering.
Robert Malenka
Robert Malenka, MD, PhD
Robert Malenka is the Pritzker Professor of Psychiatry and deputy director of the Neurosciences Institute at Stanford University. He was previously a professor of psychiatry and physiology at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). Malenka's research focuses on the mechanisms and functions of synaptic and circuit plasticity, with an emphasis on circuits mediating adaptive and pathological motivated behaviors of relevance to neuropsychiatric disorders. He earned his BA from Harvard University and MD and PhD in neuroscience from Stanford University, and he completed postdoctoral training at UCSF and a residency in psychiatry at Stanford.
Philip Starr
Philip A. Starr, MD, PhD
Philip Starr is the Dolores Cakebread Professor of Neurological Surgery at the University of California, San Francisco. His research focus is understanding circuit mechanisms of movement disorders and mechanisms of therapeutic deep brain stimulation using multi-site human intracranial recording. He earned his BA in chemistry from Princeton University and MD and PhD from Harvard Medical School.
Patrick Degenaar
Patrick Degenaar, PhD
Patrick Degenaar is an interdisciplinary academic in Newcastle University specializing in neuroprosthetics. He received a first class (Hons.) degree in applied physics at Liverpool University with a Winn Evans prize for the best undergraduate project. He then did an M.Res in surface science before spending a short period in the medical industry working on portable ECG monitors. In 1997, he won a Monbusho scholarship to do a PhD in the Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, researching bioelectronics and bioimaging in the Tamiya lab. In 2001 he graduated and spent time in the software industry in the Netherlands before returning to academia in 2002 as a postdoc in Imperial College, London, working on organic solar cells. In 2003, he shifted topic again, with a new postdoc exploring reverse engineering the human eye in microelectronics. In 2005, Degenaar attained an RCUK fellowship and lectureship in Imperial College to explore the new field of optogenetics. He continues this work in Newcastle after moving his team there in 2010, where he continues to work today.

Degenaar is now a Reader (Associate Professor) in Neuroprosthetics and has notably received significant research funding from the BBSRC, EPSRC, European Commission, Wellcome Trust, The Newton Fund, Royal Society, and various charitable and commercial organizations. Significantly from 2010 - 2014 he coordinated the Eur2.1M OptoNeuro FP7 project exploring optogenetic retinal prosthetics. Then from 2014, he has been leading the engineering work package on the £10M CANDO project (www.cando.ac.uk), which aims to develop an optogenetic pacemaker for seizure prevention in people with epilepsy. Clinical trials are planned for the in the early 2020's. His other core interest is in visual prosthesis. He is actively developing the core optoelectronics with the intention to move to trials once safety has been demonstrated on the CANDO project. Degenaar has around 150 peer-reviewed journal and conference papers and a dozen patents and is actively involved in developing regulatory documentation for his clinical orientated projects.
Alexandra Nelson
Alexandra Nelson, MD, PhD
Alexandra Nelson is the Richard and Shirley Cahill Endowed Chair in Parkinson’s Disease Research at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). She is a neuroscientist and neurologist, particularly interested in understanding the physiological basis of movement disorders. Her laboratory uses a combination of mouse models of disease, electrophysiology, and neural stimulation techniques, including optogenetics, in the hopes of identifying the specific brain regions, cell types, and patterns of activity that give rise to abnormal movement. After her undergraduate work at Stanford University, she completed MD/PhD training in neuroscience at the University of California, San Diego. She completed her residency in neurology and postdoctoral fellowship training at UCSF and the Gladstone Institutes.
Veronica Alvarez
Veronica Alvarez, PhD
Veronica Alvarez is a senior investigator and laboratory chief in the laboratory on neurobiology of compulsive behaviors at NIH National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). Alvarez holds a secondary appointment at National Institute on Drug Abuse (NDIA), and her laboratory receives additional funding from National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. She received the NIH Honor Awards in 2015, Outstanding Mentor Award in 2016, NIH Innovation Award for the creation of the Center on Compulsive Behaviors at NIH in 2017. Alvarez graduated with honors from the School of Natural Sciences and earned a PhD degree in neuroscience from the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina. She came to the United States to train as an electrophysiologist with John Williams at the Vollum Institute at Oregon Health & Science University and studied the firing properties of locus coeruleus neurons and its modulation by opioids. Alvarez continued her postdoctoral training with Bernardo Sabatini at Harvard Medical School, where she studied mechanisms of functional and morphological plasticity at glutamatergic synapses using electrophysiology and two-photon imaging.
Shuo Chen
Shuo Chen, PhD
Shuo Chen is a postdoctoral researcher at RIKEN Brain Science Institute in Japan. He is also a visiting postdoc at the University of California, Berkeley. He earned his BS in chemical engineering from Tsinghua University and his PhD in organic and supramolecular chemistry from The University of Tokyo, working on the design, synthesis, and characterization of voltage-sensing molecular assemblies. Chen’s strong interest in neuroscience led him to embark on a journey in neuroscience as a postdoc. Since then, he has been working on memory-related hippocampal neural circuits. He is also interested in developing chemical tools for applications in neuroscience.
Ana Domingos
Ana I. Domingos, PhD
Ana Domingos is an associate professor of neuroscience in the department of physiology, anatomy, and genetics, at Oxford University. Her lab researches neuroimmune mechanisms underlying obesity. Her lab discovered the neuro-adipose junction, a functional synapse-like connection between white adipocytes and the sympathetic nervous system necessary and sufficient for fat mass reduction, via norepinephrine (NE) signaling (Cell 2015, Nature Comm 2017). They then discovered Sympathetic neuron-Associated Macrophages (SAMs) that contribute to obesity by directly importing and metabolizing NE (Nature Medicine, 2017). Previously, she started up her own lab at the Gulbenkian Science Institute. As an undergraduate, Domingos studied mathematics at the University of Lisbon and Paris Diderot University. She has a PhD in neurobiology from The Rockefeller University, where she was advised by Leslie Vosshall. Domingos did her postdoc with Jeffrey Friedman at The Rockefeller University.
Linlin Fan
Linlin Fan
Linlin Fan is a PhD student in the laboratory of Adam Cohen at Harvard University. Her research interests lie in developing molecular, genetic, and optical tools to study how brain processes information and what goes wrong in diseases. She developed all-optical electrophysiology of synaptic function and applied the technique to study how ketamine induced hyperactivity. Fan obtained her BS from Peking University.
Allison Girasole
Allison E. Girasole
Ally Girasole is a neuroscience PhD student at the University of California, San Francisco in Alexandra Nelson's lab, where she studies the cellular and microcircuit mechanisms of levodopa-induced dyskinesia. She previously worked with Zayd Khaliq at NIH, studying midbrain dopamine neurons and their presynaptic connections. Girasole earned her BS in biology at Ithaca College.
Ian Oldenburg
Ian A. Oldenburg, PhD
Ian Antón Oldenburg is a Simons Collaboration Postdoctoral Fellow in the laboratory of Hillel Adesnik at the University of California, Berkeley. After his undergraduate work at Carnegie Mellon University, he got his PhD at Harvard University, where he worked with Bernardo Sabatini and used optogenetic activation to study the interactions between the basal ganglia and cortex. In general, he is interested in understanding how neurons interact with each other to change behavior. However, these interactions can be diverse, depending heavily on the state of the animal and the neurons' identities. In his current research, he is developing and implementing new multiphoton optogenetic technology that allows for the specific perturbation of many individual neurons in order to dissect these interactions at a previously intractable scale, with the goal of understanding the mechanisms behind sensory perception.

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