Light-evoked hyperpolarization and silencing of neurons by conjugated polymers
The ability to control and modulate the action potential firing in neurons represents a powerful tool for neuroscience research and clinical applications. While neuronal excitation has been achieved with many tools, including electrical and optical stimulation, hyperpolarization and neuronal inhibition are typically obtained through patch-clamp or optogenetic manipulations. Here we report the use of conjugated polymer films interfaced with neurons for inducing a light-mediated inhibition of their electrical activity. We show that prolonged illumination of the interface triggers a sustained hyperpolarization of the neuronal membrane that significantly reduces both spontaneous and evoked action potential firing. We demonstrate that the polymeric interface can be activated by either visible or infrared light and is capable of modulating neuronal activity in brain slices and explanted retinas. These findings prove the ability of conjugated polymers to tune neuronal firing and suggest their potential application for the in-vivo modulation of neuronal activity.