Optocapacitive Generation of Action Potentials by Microsecond Laser Pulses of Nanojoule Energy

João L. Carvalho-de-Souza, Bernardo I. Pinto, David R. Pepperberg, Francisco Bezanilla

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


Millisecond pulses of laser light delivered to gold nanoparticles residing in close proximity to the surface membrane of neurons can induce membrane depolarization and initiate an action potential. An optocapacitance mechanism proposed as the basis of this effect posits that the membrane-interfaced particle photothermally induces a cell-depolarizing capacitive current, and predicts that delivering a given laser pulse energy within a shorter period should increase the pulse's action-potential-generating effectiveness by increasing the magnitude of this capacitive current. Experiments on dorsal root ganglion cells show that, for each of a group of interfaced gold nanoparticles and microscale carbon particles, reducing pulse duration from milliseconds to microseconds markedly decreases the minimal pulse energy required for AP generation, providing strong support for the optocapacitance mechanism hypothesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)283-288
Number of pages6
JournalBiophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 23 2018
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics


Dive into the research topics of 'Optocapacitive Generation of Action Potentials by Microsecond Laser Pulses of Nanojoule Energy'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this