Modeling optical design parameters for fine stimulation in sciatic nerve of optogenetic mice

Nicholas Fritz, Daniel Gulick, Mark Bailly, Jennifer M.Blain Christen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Optogenetics presents an alternative method for interfacing with the nervous system over the gold-standard of electrical stimulation. While electrical stimulation requires electrodes to be surgically embedded in tissue for in vivo studies, optical stimulation offers a less-invasive approach that may yield more specific, localized stimulation. The advent of optogenetic laboratory animals—whose motor neurons can be activated when illuminated with blue light—enables research into refining optical stimulation of the mammalian nervous system where subsets of nerve fibers within a nerve may be stimulated without embedding any device directly into the nerve itself. However, optical stimulation has a major drawback in that light is readily scattered and absorbed in tissue thereby limiting the depth with which a single emission source can penetrate. We hypothesize that the use of multiple, focused light emissions deployed around the circumference of a nerve can overcome these light-scattering limitations. To understand the physical parameters necessary to produce pinpointed light stimulation within a single nerve, we employed a simplified Monte Carlo simulation to estimate the size of nerves where this technique may be successful, as well as the necessary optical lens design for emitters to be used during future in vivo studies. By modeling multiple focused beams, we find that only fascicles within a nerve diameter less than 1 mm are fully accessible to focused optical stimulation; a minimum of 4 light sources is required to generate a photon intensity at a point in a nerve over the initial contact along its surface. To elicit the same effect in larger nerves, focusing lenses would require a numerical aperture > 1. These simulations inform on the design of instrumentation capable of stimulating disparate motor neurons in mouse sciatic nerve to control hindlimb movement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number22588
JournalScientific reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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