Mental map of space is stabilized by sugar coated neurons

Credit: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain

A reliable sense of space is essential for daily life and memory formation. Removing sugar coated proteins around neurons in the brains' internal gps makes the mental map of space unstable, shows a study published in the journal Nature communications.

Scientists from the University of Oslo, Norway have shown that the sugar coated proteins, called perineuronal nets, that wrap densely around neurons in the brain, are responsible for long-term stability of the mental maps. This study is the first to link extracellular matrix to the stability of our sense of space.

Every time you revisit a place, neurons will be reactivated in the exact same place telling you where you are. "When we removed the perineuronal nets from neurons in the in rats, we observed that new grid maps formed more slowly in novel environments compared to from rats that had intact perineuronal nets. Even more surprising was that when the
rats returned to their familiar arenas, also the stored grid maps had become unstable," says main author Charlotte Christensen. "This suggests that the perineuronal nets contribute to maintain the integrity of stored mental maps and prevent them from being overwritten by new experiences."

They found that not only was the grid map unstable, also the between grid cell firing was impaired after removal of the . This opens for future investigations to elucidate if the confusion with time or place in Alzheimer patients is associated with changes in the extracellular matrix of the brain.

Explore further

Changes in brain cartilage may explain why sleep helps you learn

More information: Ane Charlotte Christensen et al. Perineuronal nets stabilize the grid cell network, Nature Communications (2021). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-020-20241-w
Journal information: Nature Communications

Provided by University of Oslo
Citation: Mental map of space is stabilized by sugar coated neurons (2021, January 19) retrieved 26 June 2022 from
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

Feedback to editors