The promise and perils of causal circuit manipulations

Steffen BE Wolff, Bence P Ölveczky
2018 Current Opinion in Neurobiology  
The development of increasingly sophisticated methods for recording and manipulating neural activity is revolutionizing neuroscience. By probing how activity patterns in different types of neurons and circuits contribute to behavior, these tools can help inform mechanistic models of brain function and explain the roles of distinct circuit elements. However, in systems where functions are distributed over large networks, interpreting causality experiments can be challenging. Here we review
more » ... assumptions underlying circuit manipulations in behaving animals and discuss the strengths and limitations of different approaches. In face of all these different aspects of causality, having clearly defined terminology is important to avoid misconceptions and ambiguities and to allow for meaningful discussions, interpretations, and conclusions of causality experiments in neuroscience. Establishing and verifying mechanistic models requires demonstrating causal links between neural activity and behavior (Figure 1) . Thankfully, optogenetics and other recently developed circuit manipulation tools are making it possible to control the activity of circuits and cell types with increasing specificity, something that has catalyzed an exciting new era Wolff and Ölveczky
doi:10.1016/j.conb.2018.01.004 pmid:29414070 pmcid:PMC5957484 fatcat:uxdbpg4hwzbyxhpdctg7z5jgme