Control of brain waves from the brain surface

June 15, 2012
Control of brain waves from the brain surface
Credit: Thinkstock

Whether or not a neuron transmits an electrical impulse is a function of many factors. European research is using a heady mixture of techniques – molecular, microscopy and electrophysiological – to identify the necessary input for nerve transmission in the cortex.

In the central nervous system (CNS), a nerve cell or neuron has a 'forest' of elaborate dendritic trees arising from the cell body. These literally receive many thousands of synapses (junctions that allow transmission of a signal) at positions around the tree. These inputs then are able to generate an impulse, or 'spike', known as an action potential at the initial part of the axon.

Previous research has confirmed that an activated synapse will generate an electric signal as a result of neurotransmitters released from pre-synaptic axons. Electrical recordings from the neocortex have confirmed that, in line with the cable theory prediction, that modulation of potential at the dendrite is highly distance-dependent from the cell body or soma.

The 'Information processing in distal dendrites of neocortical layer 5 pyramidal neurons' (Channelrhodopsin) project aimed to shed more light on how more distal sites in the 'tree' influence the action potential of the post-synaptic neuron. Furthermore, they investigated exactly how dendritic spikes can be generated, another issue about which there is little information so far.

Recent research has highlighted the importance of activation of N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors to bring about the production of a signal that will proceed to the soma and then result in a spike. There is also indirect evidence that interneurons targeting dendrites can control level of dendrite excitability.

Channelrhodopsin scientists simultaneously recorded the pre- and post-synaptic electrical recordings of identified interneurons and a special type of neuron, pyramidal cells that are primary excitation units in the mammalian cortex.

The project team first characterised the different types of inhibitory neuron deep in the cortex in layer 5 at apical tuft dendrites. The researchers then showed that a special type of inhibitory interneuron in the outer layer of the neocortex can suppress dendritic spiking in layer 5.

Project results show that a superficial inhibitory neuron can impact information processing in a specific pyramidal neuron. The research will have massive implications for neuroscience and help to unravel the integrative operations of CNS .

Explore further: A 3-D reconstructed image of neural dendritic trees using the advanced electron microscope technology

Related Stories

Recommended for you

New mechanism discovered behind infant epilepsy

September 3, 2015

Scientists at Karolinska Institutet and Karolinska University Hospital in Sweden have discovered a new explanation for severe early infant epilepsy. Mutations in the gene encoding the protein KCC2 can cause the disease, hereby ...

Neuron responsible for alcoholism found

September 2, 2015

Scientists have pinpointed a population of neurons in the brain that influences whether one drink leads to two, which could ultimately lead to a cure for alcoholism and other addictions.

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 ...

Scientists see motor neurons 'walking' in real time

September 2, 2015

When you're taking a walk around the block, your body is mostly on autopilot—you don't have to consciously think about alternating which leg you step with or which muscles it takes to lift a foot and put it back down. That's ...

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.