The Lüscher lab studies brain diseases that are not caused by neurodegeneration, such as addiction, eating disorders or obsessive compulsive disorders. Current technological developments have enabled interrogative studies of neuronal network function in vivo. However, we are missing crucial insights into how pathological changes cause symptoms.
Recent research taking advantage of optogenetics has enabled the characterization of the neural circuits involved in motivated behavior. The goal is to identify the disease relevant circuitry, to characterize the forms of synaptic plasticity and establish links of causality for adaptive motivated behavior.
Optogenetics has also been used to propose blueprints for novel treatments aiming at restoring circuit function through the reversal of specific forms of pathological synaptic plasticity. Since translation to human will not be possible anytime soon, the Lüscher lab works at an intermediate strategy could consist of emulating optogenetic protocols with deep brain stimulation (DBS). This translational path to rational, optogenetically-inspired DBS starts by refining existing approaches and carries the hope to expand to novel indications, such as OCD and eating disorders.