Non-genetic photoacoustic stimulation of single neurons by a tapered fiber optoacoustic emitter.
Neuromodulation at high spatial resolution poses great significance in advancing fundamental knowledge in the field of neuroscience and offering novel clinical treatments. Here, we developed a tapered fiber optoacoustic emitter (TFOE) generating an ultrasound field with a high spatial precision of 39.6 µm, enabling optoacoustic activation of single neurons or subcellular structures, such as axons and dendrites. Temporally, a single acoustic pulse of sub-microsecond converted by the TFOE from a single laser pulse of 3 ns is shown as the shortest acoustic stimuli so far for successful neuron activation. The precise ultrasound generated by the TFOE enabled the integration of the optoacoustic stimulation with highly stable patch-clamp recording on single neurons. Direct measurements of the electrical response of single neurons to acoustic stimulation, which is difficult for conventional ultrasound stimulation, have been demonstrated. By coupling TFOE with ex vivo brain slice electrophysiology, we unveil cell-type-specific responses of excitatory and inhibitory neurons to acoustic stimulation. These results demonstrate that TFOE is a non-genetic single-cell and sub-cellular modulation technology, which could shed new insights into the mechanism of ultrasound neurostimulation. A tapered fiber optoacoustic emitter enables non-genetic single neuron and sub-cellular stimulation. It also offers high compatibility with stable patch clamp recording for further study of mechanism.