Treating brain disorders with neuromodulation

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Science  27 Mar 2015:
Vol. 347, Issue 6229, pp. 1418-1419
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa9610

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Altering the activity of specific brain structures to understand their function, but also to manage their dysfunction, has been a timeless mission for neuroscientists. Classical tools for studying brain structure and function are lesioning, electrical stimulation, and chemical modulation. Although effective at the level of the brain structure, these tools lack a high degree of selectivity and specificity. More advanced neuromodulation techniques are overcoming these limits, including optogenetic approaches and chemogenetic tools [such as designer receptors exclusively activated by designer drugs (DREADD)]. On page 1477 of this issue, Chen et al. (1) add magnetothermal neuromodulation to this list. The approach allows specific neurons to be activated by heat-emitting nanoparticles that respond to externally applied magnetic fields.