In the quest to map the brain, many scientists have attempted the incredibly daunting task of recording the activity of each neuron. Gero Miesenboeck works backward - manipulating specific neurons to figure out exactly what they do, through a series of stunning experiments that reengineer the way fruit flies perceive light.
Gero Miesenböck is Waynflete Professor of Physiology at the University of Oxford and a fellow of Magdalen College. Miesenböck is the founder of the emerging field of Optogenetics that combines optical and genetic techniques to probe neural circuits within intact animals, at the high speeds (millisecond-timescale) needed to understand brain information processing. He has developed experimental strategies for visualizing and controlling nerve cells with light including, inter alia, genetically targeted photostimulation of neurons and optical imaging of neurotransmission using bio-markers.
As he points out at the end of the talk... the potential here is to ultimately reach a complete mechanistic description of mind through the paradigm of optogenetics. It may, along with several other emerging approaches, legitimately aspire to do away with the whole windbaggery of mystical and 'mentalistic' notions of mind brandished oh-so-often by the religiously inclined and the anthropomorphically conditioned. I for one... am applauding in anticipation.