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Fiber-optic Implantation for Chronic Optogenetic Stimulation of Brain Tissue

Published: October 29th, 2012



1Department of Molecular & Human Genetics, Baylor College of Medicine (BCM), 2Department of Neuroscience, Baylor College of Medicine (BCM), 3Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute, Texas Children's Hospital

The development of optogenetics now provides the means to precisely stimulate genetically defined neurons and circuits, both in vitro and in vivo. Here we describe the assembly and implantation of a fiber optic for chronic photostimulation of brain tissue.

Elucidating patterns of neuronal connectivity has been a challenge for both clinical and basic neuroscience. Electrophysiology has been the gold standard for analyzing patterns of synaptic connectivity, but paired electrophysiological recordings can be both cumbersome and experimentally limiting. The development of optogenetics has introduced an elegant method to stimulate neurons and circuits, both in vitro1 and in vivo2,3. By exploiting cell-type specific promoter activity to drive opsin expression in discrete neuronal populations, one can precisely stimulate genetically defined neuronal subtypes in distinct circuits4-6. Well described methods to stimulate neurons, including electrical stimulation and/or pharmacological manipulations, are often cell-type indiscriminate, invasive, and can damage surrounding tissues. These limitations could alter normal synaptic function and/or circuit behavior. In addition, due to the nature of the manipulation, the current methods are often acute and terminal. Optogenetics affords the ability to stimulate neurons in a relatively innocuous manner, and in genetically targeted neurons. The majority of studies involving in vivo optogenetics currently use a optical fiber guided through an implanted cannula6,7; however, limitations of this method include damaged brain tissue with repeated insertion of an optical fiber, and potential breakage of the fiber inside the cannula. Given the burgeoning field of optogenetics, a more reliable method of chronic stimulation is necessary to facilitate long-term studies with minimal collateral tissue damage. Here we provide our modified protocol as a video article to complement the method effectively and elegantly described in Sparta et al.8 for the fabrication of a fiber optic implant and its permanent fixation onto the cranium of anesthetized mice, as well as the assembly of the fiber optic coupler connecting the implant to a light source. The implant, connected with optical fibers to a solid-state laser, allows for an efficient method to chronically photostimulate functional neuronal circuitry with less tissue damage9 using small, detachable, tethers. Permanent fixation of the fiber optic implants provides consistent, long-term in vivo optogenetic studies of neuronal circuits in awake, behaving mice10 with minimal tissue damage.

*All materials along with respective manufacturers and/or vendors are listed below the protocol.

1. Assembly of Implant

  1. Prepare a mixture of heat-curable fiber optic epoxy by adding 100 mg of hardener to 1 g of resin.
  2. Measure and cut approximately 35 mm of 125 μm fiber optic with 100 μm core by scoring it with a wedge-tip carbide scribe. Position the scribe perpendicular to the fiber optic and score in a single, unidirectional motion. Cutting the fiber completely wi.......

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Optogenetics is a powerful new technique that allows unprecedented control over specific neuronal subtypes. This can be exploited to modulate neural circuits with anatomic and temporal precision, while avoiding the cell-type indiscriminate and invasive effects of electrical stimulation through an electrode. Implantation of fiber optics allows for consistent, chronic stimulation of neural circuits over multiple sessions in awake, behaving mice with minimal damage to tissue. This system, originally pioneered by Sparta .......

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We would like to acknowledge that this technique was originally described by Sparta et al., 2012 and has been easily adapted for use in our lab.


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Name Company Catalog Number Comments
Name of the Reagent or Equipment Company Catalogue # Comments
LC Ferrule Sleeve Precision Fiber Products (PFP) SM-CS125S 1.25 mm ID
FC MM Pre-Assembled Connector PFP MM-CON2004-2300 230 μm Ferrule
Miller FOPD-LC Disc PFP M1-80754 For LC ferrules
Furcation tubing PFP FF9-250 900 μm o.d., 250 μm i.d.
MM LC Stick Ferrule 1.25 mm PFP MM-FER2007C-1270 127 μm ID Bore
MM LC Stick Ferrule 1.25 mm PFP MM-FER2007C-2300 230 μm ID Bore
Heat-curable epoxy, hardener and resin PFP ET-353ND-16OZ  
FC/PC and SC/PC Connector Polishing Disk ThorLabs D50-FC For FC ferrules
Digital optical power and Energy Meter ThorLabs PM100D Spectrophotometer
Polishing Pad ThorLabs NRS913 9" x 13" 50 Durometer
Aluminum oxide Lapping (Polishing) Sheets: 0.3, 1, 3, 5 μm grits ThorLabs LFG03P, LFG1P, LFG3P, LFG5P  
Standard Hard Cladding Multimode Fiber ThorLabs BFL37-200 Low OH, 200 μm Core, 0.37 NA
Fiber Stripping Tool ThorLabs T10S13 Clad/Coat: 200 μm / 300 μm
SILICA/SILICA Optical Fiber Polymicro Technologies FVP100110125 High -OH, UV Enhanced, 0.22 NA
1x1 Fiberoptic Rotary Joint doric lenses FRJ_FC-FC  
Mono Fiberoptic Patchcord doric lenses MFP_200/230/900-0.37_2m_FC-FC  
Heat shrink tubing, 1/8 inch Allied Electronics 689-0267  
Heat gun Allied Electronics 972-6966 250 W; 750-800 °F
Cotton tipped applicators Puritan Medical Products Company 806-WC  
VetBond tissue adhesive Fischer Scientific 19-027136  
Flash denture base acrylic Yates Motloid ColdPourPowder+Liq  
BONN Miniature Iris Scissors Integra Miltex 18-1392 3-1/2"(8.9cm), straight, 15 mm blades
Johns Hopkins Bulldog Clamp Integra Miltex 7-290 1-1/2"(3.8 cm), curved
MEGA-Torque Electric Lab Motor Vector EL-S  
Panther Burs-Ball #1 Clarkson Laboratory 77.1006  
Violet Blue Laser System CrystaLaser CK473-050-O Wavelength: 473 nm
Laser Power Supply CrystaLaser CL-2005  
Dumont #2 Laminectomy Forceps Fine Science Tools 11223-20  
Probe Fine Science Tools 10140-02  
5"Straight Hemostat Excelta 35-PH  
Vise with weighted base Altex Electronics PAN381  

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  2. Arenkiel, B. R. In Vivo Light-Induced Activation of Neural Circuitry in Trangenic Mice Expressing Channelrhodopsin-2. Neuron. 54, 205-218 (2007).
  3. Gradinaru, V. Molecular and cellular approaches for diversifying and extending optogenetics. Cell. 141, 165-16 (2010).
  4. Luo, L., Callaway, E. M., Svoboda, K. Genetic dissection of neural circuits. Neuron. 57, 634-660 (2008).
  5. Arenkiel, B. R., Ehlers, M. D. Molecular genetic and imaging technologies for circuit based neuroanatomy. Nature. 461, 900-907 (2009).
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  7. Adamantidis, A. R., Zhang, F., Aravanis, A. M., Deisseroth, K., de Lecea, L. Neural substrates of awakening probed with optogenetic control of hypocretin neurons. Nature. 450, 420-424 (2007).
  8. Sparta, D. R. Construction of implantable optical fibers for long-term optogenetic manipulation of neural circuits. Nature Protocols. 7, 12-23 (2012).
  9. Stuber, G. D. Excitatory transmission from the amygdala to nucleus accumbens facilitates reward seeking. Nature. 475, 377-380 (2011).
  10. Liu, X. Optogenetic stimulation of a hippocampal engram activates fear memory recall. Nature. 484, 381-385 (2012).

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