Richard Kramer's main research interest is in optical sensing and control of neural activity:
Nerve cells employ electrical and chemical signals as their means of communicating with one another, and with other cells of the body. We are interested in ion channels, the proteins that generate electrical signals, and synaptic transmission, the process that allows a neuron to communicate with other cells. We use utilize novel chemical tools that modify ion channels and synaptic proteins, rendering them sensitive to light. This approach allows non-invasive optical manipulation and sensing of neuronal activity in intact tissue. Our investigations span various parts of the nervous system, including the brain, the spinal cord, and especially the retina, the sole part of the nervous system that is normally accessible to light in vivo. Some of our studies are aimed at better understanding the functions of particular ion channels and synaptic proteins. Others are medically motivated; focused on developing a new therapeutic approach whereby light can input information into the nervous system downstream of sites of injury or degeneration.