For the most part science advances our abilities in positive ways, but of course there are always some negative consequences as well. Other times science can lead to somewhat disturbing advancements, even if the intentions are good. I would classify optogenetics as one of those disturbing advances.
Optogenetics is a technology that allows control of the neurons in our brains. The key to optogenetics is light sensitive proteins, which respond to light signals and thus tell specific neurons what they should do.
Researchers genetically modify neurons to include light sensitive proteins in animals. Then typically an LED is mounted in the skull which can be controlled remotely. This is where the term optogenetics originates because it combines ideas from optics and genetics.
Optogenetics is a relatively new technology. The first major steps taken toward neuron control happened in 2002. The idea of course is that researchers can study brain activity by actively controlling what is happening in the brain, they can test what happens if certain neurons are shut off or turn on. Indeed the research has actually led to some significant advances in understanding of neurological and psychological disorders such as Parkinson's disease and Schizophrenia.
Optogenetics has had a key advance recently. Rresearchers have discovered new proteins that respond to red light, instead of the normal green or blue light. This means that they will be able to control neurons that are buried deeper in the brain and potentially unlock more secrets that the brain is hiding away.
Of course no one can argue that the idea is wonderful. It would be great to find ways to cure Parkinson's disease, or control psychological disorders, but still there is something slightly unnerving about the whole idea. Perhaps it drums up thoughts of Michael Crichton's novel "The Terminal Man" in which electrodes are deposited in a man's brain to control his violent tendencies which only makes them worse.
I know that most likely my worries are completely unfounded, as are most worries about science. For instance nothing like Frankenstein's creation has come about, despite our tremendous advances in biological knowledge and know-how. So I will cautiously applaud another potentially important scientific advance.