Using physics to peer deeper into the brain

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1. Please provide a short summary of your research, project or technology.

I work at the intersection of optical physics and neuroscience, developing new and powerful ways to see how the brain works.

More specifically, I develop ways in which traditional approaches in optical physics can be retooled for neuroscience. One example of this is shaping light to form holograms within the brain. By illuminating just the brain cells that we are interested in, we can activate them and learn about their roles within the brain’s broader networks. In another case, I have used optical trapping to apply physical forces to the inner ears of zebrafish larvae, tricking them into thinking that they are accelerating. This has revealed patterns of activity in the brain that are responsible for vestibular perception.

These tricks of physics are opening new paths to understanding how the brain works, which will eventually help us to understand the brain dysfunction underlying disorders such as schizophrenia and autism. 

2. Additional Details

List of papers related to my project:

·       “Scattering of Sculpted Light in Intact Brain Tissue, with implications for Optogenetics”, Itia A. Favre-Bulle, Daryl Preece, Timo A. Nieminen, Lucy A. Heap, Ethan K. Scott & Halina Rubinsztein-Dunlop, published in Scientific Reports, Vol. 5, Art. 11501, June 2015.

·        “Computational modelling of scattering of a focused beam in zebrafish brain tissue”, Itia A. Favre-Bulle, Timo A. Nieminen, Daryl Preece, Lucy A. Heap, Ethan K. Scott, and Halina Rubinsztein-Dunlop. In Optics in the Life Sciences, OSA Technical Digest (online), p. JT3A.34 (Optical Society of America, 2015).

·       “Optical Trapping of Otoliths Drives Vestibular Behaviours in Larval Zebrafish”, Itia A. Favre-Bulle, Alexander B. Stilgoe, Halina Rubinsztein-Dunlop, Ethan K. Scott, Nature Communications, Vol. 8, Art. 630, September 2017.

·       “Hypothalamic Projections to the Optic Tectum in Larval Zebrafish”, Lucy A. Heap, Gilles C. Vanwalleghem, Andrew W. Thompson, Itia Favre-Bulle, Halina Rubinsztein-Dunlop and Ethan K. Scott, Frontiers in Neuroanatomy, Vol. 11, Art. 135, January 2018.


Adrien Mauranyapin Kaur
almost 2 years ago

Great project! Good luck.

Daryl Preece
almost 2 years ago

Great project !! It still blows me away to think we can recover information about what fish are thinking.

Pascal R
almost 2 years ago

Great work Itia!


I completed my Engineering and Master degrees at TPS and University of Strasbourg, France. My PhD project involved the study of light scattering of brain tissue. I also developed multiple optical s...

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