Karl Deisseroth, MD PhD, is the DH Chen Professor of Bioengineering and of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University. A native of Boston, Deisseroth received his bachelor’s degree from Harvard in 1992, his PhD from Stanford in 1998, and his MD from Stanford in 2000. He completed postdoctoral training, medical internship, and adult psychiatry residency at Stanford in 2004. Board-certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, he continues as a practicing inpatient/outpatient psychiatrist at Stanford, employing medications and interventional brain-stimulation techniques (VNS, TMS and others). He also serves as Director of Undergraduate Education in Bioengineering at Stanford, and teaches yearly courses in the graduate and undergraduate curricula. In his laboratory, Deisseroth develops and applies interdisciplinary technologies to probe the structure, function, and dynamics of neural circuits, both in normal functioning and in disease. For leading the development and application of optogenetics, Deisseroth has received among other awards the NIH Director’s Pioneer Award (2005), the Scheutze Prize (2008), the Society for Neuroscience Young Investigator Award (2009), the Koetser Prize (2010), the Nakasone Prize (2010), the Alden Spencer Prize (2011), the UNC/Perl Prize (2012), the Zuelch Prize (2012), the Pasarow Foundation Prize (2013), and the Richard Lounsbery Prize (2013).

Research Interests

Deisseroth's work is focused on developing and applying methods for studying intact biological systems with fine spatial and temporal resolution, and high molecular and genetic specificity. In his development of optogenetics, he integrated genetics and optics to enable the experimental gain- or loss-of-function of well-defined events in specific cell types within intact biological systems, using microbial opsin genes taken from evolutionarily distant organisms such as algae and archaebacteria which encode single component light-activated regulators of transmembrane ion conductance. Since Deisseroth's transduction of microbial opsins into neurons in 2004, publications from his team have developed 1) faster and more potent opsins for fidelity at high spike rates and low light levels; 2) bistable (step-function) opsin mutants that allow cells to be switched into and out of stable excitable states with single flashes of light; 3) redshifted opsins for combinatorial control with blue light-activated opsins; 4) generalizable methods for targeting opsins; and 5) fiberoptic interface devices to allow optogenetic control of any brain region or tissue in freely-moving mammals. Deisseroth's applications of his technologies have spanned both basic science work relating to motivation and reward, and disease-focused work investigating aspects of Parkinsonism, anxiety, social dysfunction, depression, and other neuropsychiatric disease symptoms.

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Primary Section

Section 28: Systems Neuroscience

Secondary Section

Section 24: Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience