Keio Prize Awarded to Karl DeisserothKarl Deisseroth was chosen as one of two recipients of this year’s prestigious Keio Medical Science Prize for his “enormous contributions towards the fundamental understanding of brain function in health and disease,” Keio University announced yesterday.

Keio University lauded his efforts in inventing optogenetics, which has been adopted rapidly as a tool to precisely target and demonstrate “causal relationship between neuronal circuits and behavior.”

Thus, Dr. Deisseroth first provided “a method by which all neurons of just one type could be activated or inactivated, leaving the others more or less unaltered” (Francis Crick, 1979), which had been a long-required task in the field of neuroscience.

Optogenetics has further permitted us to control intracellular signals such as calcium and cAMP signals, and thus it can be widely applied to biomedical and life science research. By making optogenetics a reality and leading this new field, Dr. Deisseroth has made enormous contributions towards the fundamental understanding of brain function in health and disease.

“It is a tremendous honor to receive the 2014 Keio Medical Science Prize, in recognition of our efforts to develop optogenetics,” Deisseroth told Keio University. “Prize is particularly meaningful because optogenetics originated as a tool to study the basic science of biology, not medical illness.”

But optogenetic investigations into forms of Parkinson’s in rodent models have already helped neurosurgeons better target implanted stimulating electrodes. Some Parkinson’s patients receive implanted electrodes as part of their treatment to reduce symptoms. However, the precise neuronal connections to target had been up for debate–until optogenetics helped pinpoint the wiring.

“Now neurosurgeons are finding that placing their electrical contacts to target connections gives better results in treating symptoms in people with Parkinson’s and many other conditions,” Deisseroth told Standord News Service in an interview.