Light stimulation of neurons on organic photocapacitors induces action potentials with millisecond precision

Tony Schmidt, Marie Jakešová, Vedran Derek, Karin Kornmüller, Oleksandra Tiapko, Helmut Bischof, Sandra Burgstaller, Linda Waldherr, Marta Nowakowska, Christian Baumgartner, Muammer Ücal, Gerd Leitinger, Susanne Scheruebel, Silke Patz, Roland Malli, Eric Daniel Glowacki, Theresa Margarethe Rienmüller, Rainer Schindl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Nongenetic optical control of neurons is a powerful technique to study and manipulate the function of the nervous system. This research has benchmarked the performance of organic electrolytic photocapacitor (OEPC) optoelectronic stimulators at the level of single mammalian cells: human embryonic kidney (HEK) cells with heterologously expressed voltage-gated K + channels and hippocampal primary neurons. OEPCs act as extracellular stimulation electrodes driven by deep red light. The electrophysiological recordings show that millisecond light stimulation of OEPC shifts conductance-voltage plots of voltage-gated K + channels by ≈30 mV. Models are described both for understanding the experimental findings at the level of K + channel kinetics in HEK cells, as well as elucidating interpretation of membrane electrophysiology obtained during stimulation with an electrically floating extracellular photoelectrode. A time-dependent increase in voltage-gated channel conductivity in response to OEPC stimulation is demonstrated. These findings are then carried on to cultured primary hippocampal neurons. It is found that millisecond time-scale optical stimuli trigger repetitive action potentials in these neurons. The findings demonstrate that OEPC devices enable the manipulation of neuronal signaling activities with millisecond precision. OEPCs can therefore be integrated into novel in vitro electrophysiology protocols, and the findings can inspire in vivo applications.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2101159
JournalAdvanced Materials Technologies
Issue number9
Early online date18 Mar 2022
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2022


  • bioelectronics
  • light stimulation
  • neuronal excitation
  • OEPC device
  • photocapacitor
  • voltage-gated ion channels

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Materials Science(all)
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering

Fields of Expertise

  • Human- & Biotechnology


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