Optogenetic strategies to investigate neural circuitry engaged by stress.Behav Brain Res 2013; 255:19-25BB
Optogenetic techniques have given researchers unprecedented access to the function of discrete neural circuit elements and have been instrumental in the identification of novel brain pathways that become dysregulated in neuropsychiatric diseases. For example, stress is integrally linked to the manifestation and pathophysiology of neuropsychiatric illness, including anxiety, addiction and depression. Due to the heterogeneous populations of genetically and neurochemically distinct neurons in areas such as the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST), as well as their substantial number of projections, our understanding of how neural circuits become disturbed after stress has been limited. Using optogenetic tools, we are now able to selectively isolate distinct neural circuits that contribute to these disorders and perturb these circuits in vivo, which in turn may lead to the normalization of maladaptive behavior. This review will focus on current optogenetic strategies to identify, manipulate, and record from discrete neural circuit elements in vivo as well as highlight recent optogenetic studies that have been utilized to parcel out BNST function.