The balancing act to regulate the brain machinery

The balancing act to regulate the brain machinery
Credit: Thinkstock

Molecular imbalance lies at the root of many psychiatric disorders. Current EU-funded research has discovered a major RNA molecular player in neurogenesis and has characterised its action and targets in the zebrafish embryo.

Neural circuits are constantly in the process of modification according to experience and changes in the environment, a phenomenon known as plasticity. Classical Hebbian plasticity is crucial for encoding information whereas homeostatic plasticity stabilises in the face of changes that disturb excitability.

Homeostatic plasticity plays a big role in activity-dependent development of . Interestingly, this type of homeostasis is frequently distorted in such as schizophrenia and autism.

Unlike the molecular basis of Hebbian homeostasis, the biochemistry behind homeostatic plasticity is relatively unknown. The 'MicroRNAs and control' (Neuromir) project set about investigating in the zebrafish embryo to unravel the action of one class of gene regulator in particular – microRNAs.

The microRNA machinery is potentially very powerful in cell regulation. It influences many development processes and each microRNA molecule can regulate hundreds of target genes.

Numerous microRNAs are expressed in the development of the vertebrate central nervous system (CNS). Results from the in vivo study of the zebrafish revealed that miR-9 plays an important role in balancing the production of neurons during development of the embryo.

Neuromir researchers have successfully identified the molecular targets of miR-9. Future research may exploit this knowledge base by assessing their importance in disease and using their molecular format for drug therapy design.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Brain plasticity: Changes and resets in homeostasis

Jun 25, 2009

In an article published in the June 25th edition of the journal Neuron, researchers at the Hotchkiss Brain Institute, University of Calgary, have found that synaptic plasticity, long implicated as a device for 'change' in the ...

Stem cells are good for the brain

Jul 15, 2008

For some years, scientists have been speculating over why stem cells exist in the brain, as brain regeneration is limited. A German team of neuroscientists believe these stem cells help keep the brain healthy and active.

Study suggests caution on a new anti-obesity drug in children

May 07, 2008

A new class of anti-obesity drugs that suppresses appetite by blocking cannabinoid receptors in the brain could also suppress the adaptive rewiring of the brain necessary for neural development in children, studies with mice ...

Recommended for you

Steering the filaments of the developing brain

18 hours ago

During brain development, nerve fibers grow and extend to form brain circuits. This growth is guided by molecular cues (Fig. 1), but exactly how these cues guide axon extension has been unclear. Takuro Tojima ...

Do we really only use 10% of our brain?

19 hours ago

As the new film Lucy, starring Scarlett Johansson and Morgan Freeman is set to be released in the cinemas this week, I feel I should attempt to dispel the unfounded premise of the film – that we only use 10% of our brains ...

Birthday matters for wiring-up the brain's vision centers

Jul 31, 2014

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have evidence suggesting that neurons in the developing brains of mice are guided by a simple but elegant birth order rule that allows them to find ...

User comments