Mathematical model describes the collaboration of individual neurons

March 8, 2012

How do neurons in the brain communicate with each other? One common theory suggests that individual cells do not exchange signals among each other, but rather that exchange takes place between groups of cells. Researchers from Japan, the United States and Germany have now developed a mathematical model that can be used to test this assumption. Their results have been published in the current issue of the journal PLoS Computational Biology.

A neuron in the , the part of the brain that deals with higher brain functions, contacts thousands of other and receives as many inputs from other neurons. Previously, it has been very difficult to use measured signals to interpret the way the cells work together. Scientists at the RIKEN Brain Science Institute (BSI) in Japan have now joined forces with researchers at the Forschungszentrum Jülich, Germany, and MIT in Boston, USA, to develop a that can clarify the way neurons collaborate.

"From the many signals measured in parallel, the novel method filters the information on whether the neurons communicate individually or as a group", explains Dr. Hideaki Shimazaki from BSI. "Furthermore it takes into account that these groups of cells are not fixed but, instead, can organize themselves flexibly within milliseconds into groups of different composition, depending on the current requirements of the brain."

Prof. Sonja Grün from Forschungszentrum Jülich hopes that the method can help researchers to prove the existence of dynamic cell assemblies and clearly assign their activities to certain behaviors. The scientists already demonstrated that neurons work together when an animal anticipates a signal, which may allow it to have a more rapid or more sensitive response.

In future, the scientists hope to learn how to use their methods on the signals recorded from hundreds of neurons simultaneously. This would raise the probability of observing cell assemblies involved in planning and controlling behavior.

Explore further: Scientists discover how best to excite brain cells

Related Stories

Scientists discover how best to excite brain cells

July 8, 2011

(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, ...

Recommended for you

New type of prion may cause, transmit neurodegeneration

August 31, 2015

Multiple System Atrophy (MSA), a neurodegenerative disorder with similarities to Parkinson's disease, is caused by a newly discovered type of prion, akin to the misfolded proteins involved in incurable progressive brain diseases ...

Deciphering the olfactory receptor code

August 31, 2015

In animals, numerous behaviors are governed by the olfactory perception of their surrounding world. Whether originating in the nose of a mammal or the antennas of an insect, perception results from the combined activation ...

How neurons get their branching shapes

August 31, 2015

For more than a hundred years, people have known that dendritic arbors—the projections that neurons use to receive information from other neurons—differ in size and shape depending on neuron type. Now, researchers at ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.