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Pitt team recreates brain cell networks with new view of activity behind memory formation
Date:5/25/2011

natural network. The researchers disabled the cells' inhibitory response and then excited the neurons with an electrical pulse.

Zeringue and his colleagues were able to sustain the resulting burst of network activity for up to what in neuronal time is 12 long seconds. Compared to the natural duration of .25 seconds at most, the model's 12 seconds permitted an extensive observation of how the neurons transmitted and held the electrical charge, Zeringue said.

Unraveling the mechanics of this network communication is key to understanding the cellular and molecular basis of memory creation, Zeringue said. The format developed at Pitt makes neural networks more accessible for experimentation. For instance, the team found that when activity in one neuron is suppressed, the others respond with greater excitement.

"We can look at neurons as individuals, but that doesn't reveal a lot," Zeringue said. "Neurons are more connected and interdependent than any other cell in the body. Just because we know how one neuron reacts to something, a whole network can react not only differently, but sometimes in the complete opposite manner predicted."

Zeringue will next work to understand the underlying factors that govern network communication and stimulation, such as the various electrical pathways between cells and the genetic makeup of individual cells.


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Contact: Morgan Kelly
mekelly@pitt.edu
412-624-4356
University of Pittsburgh
Source:Eurekalert  

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