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The Boston Globe


Science in Mind

MIT team uses flashes of light to grasp OCD behaviors

With a flash of blue light, a team of researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have quelled an abnormal, repetitive behavior in mice, gaining powerful new insight into an errant brain circuit that may give rise to obsessive-compulsive disorder.

The study, published Thursday in the journal Science, uses a cutting-edge neuroscience technique called optogenetics to probe a mouse version of a disorder that affects 1 percent of adults in the United States. Optogenetics is less than a decade old, but the futuristic technique has rapidly transformed the field of neuroscience by giving researchers precise control over the brains of laboratory animals. Scientists insert a light-sensitive gene into specific brain cells, which they can then switch on or off with a pulse of light that is delivered through a cable implanted in the mouse’s skull.

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