Accessible Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter July 22, 2014

Optogenetic studies of nicotinic contributions to cholinergic signaling in the central nervous system

Li Jiang, Gretchen Y. López-Hernández, James Lederman, David A. Talmage and Lorna W. Role


Molecular manipulations and targeted pharmacological studies provide a compelling picture of which nicotinic receptor subtypes are where in the central nervous system (CNS) and what happens if one activates or deletes them. However, understanding the physiological contribution of nicotinic receptors to endogenous acetylcholine (ACh) signaling in the CNS has proven a more difficult problem to solve. In this review, we provide a synopsis of the literature on the use of optogenetic approaches to control the excitability of cholinergic neurons and to examine the role of CNS nicotinic ACh receptors (nAChRs). As is often the case, this relatively new technology has answered some questions and raised others. Overall, we believe that optogenetic manipulation of cholinergic excitability in combination with some rigorous pharmacology will ultimately advance our understanding of the many functions of nAChRs in the brain.

Corresponding author: Li Jiang, Department of Neurobiology and Behavior, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY 11794, USA, e-mail: ; and Center for Nervous System Disorders, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY 11794, USA,


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Received: 2014-5-2
Accepted: 2014-6-27
Published Online: 2014-7-22
Published in Print: 2014-12-1

©2014 by De Gruyter