Red light, brain probes and the future: An enlightening conversation

TED Blog

JuanEnriquezEdBoyen_Conversation Ed Boyden (left) and Juan Enriquez (right) talk optogenetics in a way that would make any sci-fi fan proud.

Ed Boyden is the head of the Synthetic Neurobiology group at the MIT Media Lab, where he works on tools to map, control, record — and maybe even someday build — the brain. Boyden has worked on optogenetics, a technique which deploys light-sensitive molecules to the brain and then applies light to them to “turn on” and “turn off” certain cells. The technology has been used to attempt to better understand blindness and Parkinson’s disease — and even to manipulate memories in mice. But as optogenetics becomes more and more precise, what’s next?

We asked futurist and venture capitalist Juan Enriquez, always game to speculate about how to build future-enhanced humans, to continue a conversation he started with Boyden on stage at TED2011. Over the phone they caught…

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Author: Shane O'Mara