Action potential block in neurons by infrared light

Alex J. Walsh, Gleb P. Tolstykh, Stacey Martens, Bennett L. Ibey, Hope T. Beier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Short infrared laser pulses (SILP) have many physiological effects on cells, including the ability to stimulate action potentials (APs) in neurons. Here, we show that SILPs can also reversibly block APs. Reversible AP block in hippocampal neurons was observed following SILP (0.26 to 0.96 J/cm2; 1.37 to 5.01 ms; 1869 nm) with the block persisting for more than 1 s with exposures greater than 0.69 J/cm2. AP block was sustained for 30 s with SILPs pulsed at 1 to 7 Hz. Full recovery of neuronal activity was observed 5 to 30 s post SILP exposure. These results indicate that SILP can be used for noncontact, reversible AP block. Due to the high spatial precision and noncontact manner of infrared light delivery, AP block by SILP (infrared neural inhibition) has the potential to transform medical care for sustained pain inhibition and suppression of unwanted nerve activity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number040501
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2016


  • action potential
  • fast thermal gradient
  • infrared light/radiation
  • neurons
  • optogenetics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience (miscellaneous)
  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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