Brain map sheds light on smokers' habit

December 5, 2017, University of Edinburgh
Credit: Human Brain Project

Smokers may be predisposed to their habit because of the molecular make-up of their brain, research suggests. The finding comes from a new brain map that helps explain why certain behaviours are linked with particular areas of the brain.

Connection points

Experts analysed the molecules produced at connection points between nerve cells – called synapses – which are key to sending messages around the . These molecules play a critical role in controlling different aspects of behaviour. Understanding them can shed light on the functions of a particular region of the brain.

The team, based at the University of Edinburgh, found the pattern of molecules varied between areas of the brain. These differences correspond to functions – such as language, emotion and memory. Researchers say analysing the molecular make-up of synapses in this way provides a snapshot of the genes that are expressed in different areas of the brain.

Smoking link

Using their new map, they were able to investigate where genes that have been linked to smoking exert their influences on the brain.

The findings pinpointed the same region that has previously been identified in brain imaging studies.

Powerful tool

The team says this confirms that their map can bridge the gap between genetic studies and findings from brain imaging to help to explain how the brain works. They say the new map provides a powerful tool for investigating how diseases affect different parts of the brain. The researchers have made all of their data available to facilitate such research.

"This is an important step toward understanding the molecular basis of human thought," says Professor Seth Grant.

The study was based on post mortem brain tissue samples from healthy people held in the Medical Research Council's Edinburgh Brain Bank. It is published in Nature Neuroscience and was funded by the MRC and the European Union.

"This innovative study enriches our understanding of the through its use of samples from the Medical Research Council's Edinburgh Brain Bank. The information that Professor Grant and his team has generated provide an excellent opportunity for researchers to gain further insight into how the brain works," says Dr Kate Adcock.

Explore further: Scientists discover genetic timetable of brain's aging process

More information: Marcia Roy et al. Proteomic analysis of postsynaptic proteins in regions of the human neocortex, Nature Neuroscience (2017). DOI: 10.1038/s41593-017-0025-9

Related Stories

Scientists discover genetic timetable of brain's aging process

September 12, 2017
Brain scientists have identified a genetic programme that controls the way our brain changes throughout life.

Scientists identify 100 memory genes, open new avenues of brain study

May 31, 2017
Scientists have identified more than 100 genes linked to memory, opening new avenues of research to better understand memory processing in the human brain.

Rhythmic firing of brain cells supports communication in brain network for language

July 12, 2017
The communication between brain regions specialized in language is supported by rhythmic synchronization of brain cells. Moreover, different rhythms reflect different directions of information flow - a breakthrough in the ...

Memory insight may prove beneficial for those with brain damage

May 16, 2017
Scientists have discovered that there is more than one way to strengthen your memory, opening up the possibility of new treatment strategies for brain damage.

Olive oil nutrient may help prevent brain cancer

June 2, 2017
A compound found in olive oil may help to prevent cancer developing in the brain, a study shows.

Recommended for you

Observing brain plasticity during cello training

June 15, 2018
Music acquisition provides an excellent model of neural plasticity, and has become a hot research subject in neurology. Music performance provides an unmatched array of neural complexities revealing how neural networks are ...

New discovery about the brain's water system may prove beneficial in stroke

June 15, 2018
Water is transported from the blood into the brain via an ion transporter, according to a new study on mice conducted at the University of Copenhagen. If the mechanism can be targeted with medicine, it may prove relevant ...

When emotional memories intrude, focusing on context could help, study finds

June 14, 2018
When negative memories intrude, focusing on the contextual details of the incident rather than the emotional fallout could help minimize cognitive disruption and redirect the brain's resources to the task at hand, suggests ...

The neurons that rewrite traumatic memories

June 14, 2018
Memories of traumatic experiences can lead to mental health issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which can destroy a person's life. It is currently estimated that almost a third of all people will suffer ...

Researchers find transport molecule has unexpected role

June 14, 2018
UT Southwestern researchers recently reported a basic science finding that might someday lead to better treatments for neurodegenerative diseases like a hereditary form of Lou Gehrig's disease.

Neuroscientists locate neurons in the brain that respond when a visual target is found

June 14, 2018
From looking for Waldo to finding your cellphone on a cluttered kitchen table, we are continuously engaged in visual searches. How does the brain do this? How do we know where to look? How do we know when we've found what ...

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.