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Channelrhodopsin-2 (ChR2) has become a widely used tool for stimulating neurons with light. Nevertheless, the underlying dynamics of the ChR2-evoked spikes are still not yet fully understood. Here, we develop a model that describes the response of ChR2-expressing neurons to light stimuli and use the model to explore the light-to-spike process. We show that an optimal stimulation yield is achieved when the optical energies are delivered in short pulses. The model allows us to theoretically examine the effects of using various types of ChR2 mutants. We show that while increasing the lifetime and shuttering speed of ChR2 have limited effect, reducing the threshold irradiance by increased conductance will eliminate adaptation and allow constant dynamic range. The model and the conclusion presented in this study can help to interpret experimental results, design illumination protocols, and seek improvement strategies in the nascent optogenetic field.