Partner Series

This Research in Action article was provided to Live Science in partnership with the National Science Foundation.

A lesser-known benefit of biodiversity is that it supplies raw materials for development of new scientific tools — including tools that ultimately benefit our health. For example, two unlikely microbes (which don't even have brains) helped spawn a new field that is revolutionizing brain science. Optogenetics enables scientists to selectively turn on and off target neurons. It is helping science to answer long-standing questions about how billions of neurons in animals' brains interact with one another to produce thoughts and behaviors.

Check out the accompanying video to learn more about how basic research unrelated to neuroscience and funded by the National Science Foundation led to the development of one of today's most promising brain research techniques. Today optogenetics is being used to study many diseases and disorders including schizophrenia, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, epilepsy and loss of eyesight.

Editor's Note: Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. See the Research in Action archive.