Scientists discover how best to excite brain cells
(Medical Xpress) -- Oh, the challenges of being a neuron, responsible for essential things like muscle contraction, gland secretion and sensitivity to touch, sound and light, yet constantly bombarded with signals from here, there and everywhere.
How on earth are busy nerve cells supposed to pick out and respond to relevant signals amidst all that information overload?
Somehow neurons do manage to accomplish the daunting task, and they do it with more finesse than anyone ever realized, new research by University of Michigan mathematician Daniel Forger and coauthors demonstrates. Their findings---which not only add to basic knowledge about how neurons work, but also suggest ways of better designing the brain implants used to treat diseases such as Parkinson's disease -- were published July 7 in the online, open-access journal PLoS Computational Biology.
Forger and coauthors David Paydarfar at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and John Clay at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke studied neuronal excitation using mathematical models and experiments with that most famous of neuroscience study subjects, the squid giant axon---a long arm of a nerve cell that controls part of the water jet propulsion system in squid.
Among the key findings: Neurons are quite adept at their job. "They can pick out a signal from hundreds of other, similar signals," said Forger, an associate professor of mathematics in the College of Literature, Science and the Arts and a research assistant professor of computational medicine and bioinformatics at the U-M Medical School.
Neurons discriminate among signals based on the signals' "shape," (how a signal changes over time), and Forger and coauthors found that, contrary to prior belief, a neuron's preference depends on context. Neurons are often compared to transistors on a computer, which search for and respond to one specific pattern, but it turns out that neurons are more complex than that. They can search for more than one signal at the same time, and their choice of signal depends on what else is competing for their attention.
"We found that a neuron can prefer one signal---call it signal A---when compared with a certain group of signals, and a different signal---call it signal B---when compared with another group of signals," Forger said. This is true even when signal A and signal B aren't at all alike.
The findings could contribute in two main ways to the design and use of brain implants in treating neurological disorders.
"First, our results determine the optimal signals to stimulate a neuron," Forger said. "These signals are much more effective and require less battery power than what is currently used." Such efficiency would translate into less frequent surgery to replace batteries in patients with brain implants.
"Second, we found that the optimal stimulus is context-dependent," he said, "so the best signal will differ, depending on the part of the brain where the implant is placed."
More information: PLoS Computational Biology -- www.ploscompbiol.o… /home.action
Provided by University of Michigan
- New pattern in our biological clock overturns long-held theory Oct 08, 2009 | not rated yet | 0
- Rewrite the textbooks: Findings challenge conventional wisdom of how neurons operate Feb 17, 2011 | not rated yet | 0
- New research reveals critical knowledge about the nervous system Nov 06, 2007 | not rated yet | 0
- Skywalker ensures optimal communication between neurons Apr 01, 2011 | not rated yet | 0
- Scientists create working artificial nerve networks Jan 28, 2009 | not rated yet | 0
- Motion perception revisited: High Phi effect challenges established motion perception assumptions Apr 23, 2013 | 3 / 5 (2) | 2
- Anything you can do I can do better: Neuromolecular foundations of the superiority illusion (Update) Apr 02, 2013 | 4.5 / 5 (11) | 5
- The visual system as economist: Neural resource allocation in visual adaptation Mar 30, 2013 | 5 / 5 (2) | 9
- Separate lives: Neuronal and organismal lifespans decoupled Mar 27, 2013 | 4.9 / 5 (8) | 0
- Sizing things up: The evolutionary neurobiology of scale invariance Feb 28, 2013 | 4.8 / 5 (10) | 14
How can there be a term called "intestinal metaplasia" of stomach
7 hours ago Hello everyone, Ok Stomach's normal epithelium is simple columnar, now in intestinal type of adenocarcinoma of stomach it undergoes "intestinal...
Pressure-volume curve: Elastic Recoil Pressure don't make sense
May 18, 2013 From pressure-volume curve of the lung and chest wall (attached photo), I don't understand why would the elastic recoil pressure of the lung is...
If you became brain-dead, would you want them to pull the plug?
May 17, 2013 I'd want the rest of me to stay alive. Sure it's a lousy way to live but it beats being all-the-way dead. Maybe if I make it 20 years they'll...
MRI bill question
May 15, 2013 Dear PFers, The hospital gave us a $12k bill for one MRI (head with contrast). The people I talked to at the hospital tell me that they do not...
Ratio of Hydrogen of Oxygen in Dessicated Animal Protein
May 13, 2013 As an experiment, for the past few months I've been consuming at least one portion of Jell-O or unflavored Knox gelatin per day. I'm 64, in very...
Alcohol and acetaminophen
May 13, 2013 Edit: sorry for the typo in the title , can't edit I looked around on google quite a bit and it's very hard to find precise information on the...
- More from Physics Forums - Medical Sciences
More news stories
Widely available in pharmacies and health stores, phosphatidylserine is a natural food supplement produced from beef, oysters, and soy. Proven to improve cognition and slow memory loss, it's a popular treatment for older ...
Medical research 2 hours ago | 5 / 5 (1) | 0 |
Researchers at Emory University have identified a protein that stimulates a pair of "orphan receptors" found in the brain, solving a long-standing biological puzzle and possibly leading to future treatments for neurological ...
Medical research 2 hours ago | not rated yet | 0 |
Australian scientists have charted the path of insulin action in cells in precise detail like never before. This provides a comprehensive blueprint for understanding what goes wrong in diabetes.
Medical research 3 hours ago | 4.5 / 5 (2) | 0 |
Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine will study gender differences in how the heart uses and stores fat—its main energy source—and how changes in fat metabolism play ...
Medical research 5 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
Nearly 20 percent of kidneys that are recovered from deceased donors in the U.S. are refused for transplant due to factors ranging from scarring in small blood vessels of the kidney's filtering units to the organ going too ...
Medical research 22 hours ago | 5 / 5 (2) | 0 |
(Medical Xpress)—Despite spending billions of dollars on research and development, drug companies have been unable to come up with effective treatments for dementia and Alzheimer's Disease (AD). Now, A. ...
1 hour ago | 4.7 / 5 (3) | 0 |
Researchers at USC have found that a class of pharmaceuticals can both prevent and treat Alzheimer's Disease in mice.
8 minutes ago | not rated yet | 0 |
Children with autism showed significant improvement after six months of simple sensory exercises at home using everyday items such as scents, spoons and sponges, according to UC Irvine neurobiologists.
49 minutes ago | not rated yet | 0 |
An attack on glioblastoma brain tumor cells that uses a modified poliovirus is showing encouraging results in an early study to establish the proper dose level, researchers at Duke Cancer Institute report.
54 minutes ago | not rated yet | 0
Overweight and obese patients are significantly more likely than their normal-weight counterparts to repeatedly switch primary care doctors, a practice that disrupts continuity of care and leads to more emergency room visits, ...
49 minutes ago | not rated yet | 0
The decision to limit life support in patients in the intensive care unit (ICU) appears to be significantly influenced by physician practices and/or the culture of the hospital, suggests new findings from researchers at the ...
26 minutes ago | not rated yet | 0