Scientific reports

Selective inhibition of small-diameter axons using infrared light.

PMID 28607402


Novel clinical treatments to target peripheral nerves are being developed which primarily use electrical current. Recently, infrared (IR) light was shown to inhibit peripheral nerves with high spatial and temporal specificity. Here, for the first time, we demonstrate that IR can selectively and reversibly inhibit small-diameter axons at lower radiant exposures than large-diameter axons. We provide a mathematical rationale, and then demonstrate it experimentally in individual axons of identified neurons in the marine mollusk Aplysia californica, and in axons within the vagus nerve of a mammal, the musk shrew Suncus murinus. The ability to selectively, rapidly, and reversibly control small-diameter sensory fibers may have many applications, both for the analysis of physiology, and for treating diseases of the peripheral nervous system, such as chronic nausea, vomiting, pain, and hypertension. Moreover, the mathematical analysis of how IR affects the nerve could apply to other techniques for controlling peripheral nerve signaling.