The balancing act to regulate the brain machinery

June 8, 2012
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.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Improved memory thanks to irregular sleep-wake patterns

July 31, 2015

If you've had a good night's sleep, you are mentally more alert and your memory works more reliably. During sleep, a part of our forebrain called the prefrontal cortex remains active. It ensures that memories and learned ...

Take a trip through the brain (w/ Video)

July 30, 2015

A new imaging tool developed by Boston scientists could do for the brain what the telescope did for space exploration. In the first demonstration of how the technology works, published July 30 in the journal Cell, the researchers ...

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.