Navigation Links
MIT: blood may help us think

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.--MIT scientists propose that blood may help us think, in addition to its well-known role as the conveyor of fuel and oxygen to brain cells.

We hypothesize that blood actively modulates how neurons process information, explains Christopher Moore, a principle investigator in the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT, in an invited review in the Journal of Neurophysiology. Many lines of evidence suggest that blood does something more interesting than just delivering supplies. If it does modulate how neurons relay signals, that changes how we think the brain works.

According to Moore's Hemo-Neural Hypothesis, blood is not just a physiological support system but actually helps control brain activity. Specifically, localized changes in blood flow affect the activity of nearby neurons, changing how they transmit signals to each other and hence regulating information flow throughout the brain. Ongoing studies in Moore's laboratory support this view, showing that blood flow does modulate individual neurons.

Moore's theory has implications for understanding brain diseases such as Alzheimer's, schizophrenia, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Many neurological and psychiatric diseases have associated changes in the vasculature, says Moore, who is also an assistant professor in MIT's Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences.

Most people assume the symptoms of these diseases are a secondary consequence of damage to the neurons. But we propose that they may also be a causative factor in the disease process, and that insight suggests entirely new treatments. For example, in epilepsy people often have abnormal blood vessels in the brain region where the seizures occur, and the hypothesis suggests this abnormal flow may induce epileptic onset. If so, drugs that affect blood flow may provide an alternative to current therapies.

The hypothesis also has important implications for functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, a widely used brain scanning method that indicates local changes in blood flow. Scientists looking at fMRI currently regard blood flow and volume changes as a secondary process that only provides read-out of neural activity, explains Rosa Cao, a graduate student in Moore's lab and co-author of the paper. If blood flow shapes neural activity and behavior, then fMRI is actually imaging a key contributor to information processing.

Again, studies in Moore's lab support this interpretation. For example, his fMRI studies of the sensory homunculus - the brain's detailed map of body parts like fingers, toes, arms, and legs- show that when more blood flows to the area representing the fingertip, people more readily perceive a light tap on the finger. This suggests that blood affects the function of this brain region and that information about blood flow can predict future brain activity. This finding does not undermine prior studies, but adds another, richer layer to their interpretation and makes fMRI an even more useful tool than it already is.

How could blood flow affect brain activity? Blood contains diffusible factors that could leak out of vessels to affect neural activity, and changes to blood volume could affect the concentration of these factors. Also, neurons and support cells called glia may react to the mechanical forces of blood vessels expanding and contracting. In addition, blood influences the temperature of brain tissue, which affects neural activity.

To Moore's knowledge, the Hemo-Neural Hypothesis offers an entirely new way of looking at the brain. No one ever includes blood flow in models of information processing in the brain, he asserts. One historical exception is the philosopher Aristotle, who thought the circulatory system was responsible for thoughts and emotions. Perhaps the ancient Greeks were on to something.


Contact: Elizabeth Thomson
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Related biology news :

1. Placenta Is A Rich Source Of Blood Stem Cells
2. White blood cell waste disposal system plays critical regulatory role
3. Epstein-Barr virus protein crucial to its role in blood cancers
4. New insight into regulation of blood stem cells
5. Infants With Rare Genetic Disease Saved by Cord Blood Stem Cells
6. White Blood Cell Waste Disposal System Plays Critical Regulatory Role
7. Mystery Blood Vessel Disorder Implicated In Mini Strokes
8. Nano-bumps could help repair clogged blood vessels
9. First technology to remove prions that cause vCJD from blood launched
10. Infants with Rare Genetic Disease Saved By Cord Blood Stem Cells
11. Breakthrough isolating embryo-quality stem cells from blood
Post Your Comments:
(Date:11/11/2015)... , Nov. 11, 2015   MedNet Solutions , ... spectrum of clinical research, is pleased to announce that it ... Clinical Trials (PCT) event, to be held November 17-19 ... able to view live demonstrations of iMedNet ... learn how iMedNet has been able to deliver ...
(Date:11/4/2015)... , November 4, 2015 ... new market report published by Transparency Market Research "Home Security ... Trends and Forecast 2015 - 2022", the global home security ... 30.3 bn by 2022. The market is estimated to ... period from 2015 to 2022. Rising security needs among ...
(Date:10/29/2015)... , Oct. 29, 2015  Rubicon Genomics, ... for U.S. distribution of its DNA library preparation ... and Rubicon,s new ThruPLEX Plasma-seq kit. ThruPLEX Plasma-seq ... the preparation of NGS libraries for liquid biopsies--the ... diagnostic and prognostic applications in cancer and other ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/25/2015)... 2015 Studies reveal the differences ... and pave the way for more effective treatment for one ...   --> --> ... problems in cats, yet relatively little was understood about the ... have been conducted by researchers from the WALTHAM Centre for ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... DIEGO , Nov. 25, 2015  Neurocrine Biosciences, ... Kevin Gorman , President and CEO of Neurocrine Biosciences, ... Healthcare Conference in New York . ... to visit the website approximately 5 minutes prior to ... A replay of the presentation will be available on ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... IN (PRWEB) , ... November 25, 2015 , ... ... (AMA) and the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals (OPBAP) has been formalized with ... and other AMA team leaders met with OPBAP leaders Capt. Karl Minter and ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... 2015 The Global Genomics ... professional and in-depth study on the current state ... ) , The report ... definitions, classifications, applications and industry chain structure. The ... markets including development trends, competitive landscape analysis, and ...
Breaking Biology Technology: