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Opportunity at Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL)

Investigation of the Biophysical Mechanisms Underlying Infrared Stimulation of Neurons


711 Human Performance Wing, RHD/Bioeffects Division

RO# Location
13.15.10.B8075 Fort Sam Houston, TX 78234


Name E-mail Phone
Beier, Hope T 210.539.8199


The use of pulsed infrared (IR) light to elicit action potentials (APs) in neurological tissue has received much attention for its potential to augment or control neural function, including the possibility of correcting sensory impairments. Despite significant research into these possible technologies, the fundamental mechanism underlying how delivery of IR light causes neurological stimulation remains unclear. It is hypothesized that the plasma membrane is the target that provides the epicenter for the generation of action potentials from IR stimulation. However, it is unknown whether the stimulation originates from activation of membrane channels or from elicitation of structural changes within the membrane. Infrared pulses passing through an aqueous biological medium (tissue, fluid) are absorbed to create a rapid spike in temperature and possibly an impingement of thermoelastic pressure wave on a biological system. These gradients have the potential to activate pressure and/or thermally sensitive channels within the membrane of cells. However, theoretical models of lipid ion channels have shown that slight changes in membrane environment can amplify the stochastic formation of lipid ion channels, mimicking protein ion channel activity,

This research topic focuses on understanding the fundamental biophysical interaction between the incident infrared pulse and the biological system (specifically the plasma membrane) and how this effect results in neurological stimulation. To connect the physical changes in the membrane to the stimulation of the cells, this work will focus on tracking the effects on the function of endogenous neuronal ion channels and the activation of secondary membrane-derived chemical pathways. Progression of the project will start with single cell in vitro model systems and continue to brain slice models to correlate measures of impact from single neuron stimulation to a neurological network.



Beier HT, et al: Journal of Neural Engineering 11(6): 066006, 2014


Infrared laser stimulation; Plasma membrane; Neuron; Neuroscience; Electrophysiology; Patch clamp; Nanoporation; Neuronal ion channels;


Citizenship:  Open to U.S. citizens
Level:  Open to Postdoctoral and Senior applicants
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