Navigation Links
Researchers discover how inhibitory neurons behave during critical periods of learning
Date:8/25/2013

PITTSBURGHWe've all heard the saying "you can't teach an old dog new tricks." Now neuroscientists are beginning to explain the science behind the adage.

For years, neuroscientists have struggled to understand how the microcircuitry of the brain makes learning easier for the young, and more difficult for the old. New findings published in the journal Nature by Carnegie Mellon University, the University of California, Los Angeles and the University of California, Irvine show how one component of the brain's circuitry inhibitory neurons behave during critical periods of learning. The paper is available online as an Advance Online Publication (http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature12485).

The brain is made up of two types of cells inhibitory and excitatory neurons. Networks of these two kinds of neurons are responsible for processing sensory information like images, sounds and smells, and for cognitive functioning. About 80 percent of neurons are excitatory. Traditional scientific tools only allowed scientists to study the excitatory neurons.

"We knew from previous studies that excitatory cells propagate information. We also knew that inhibitory neurons played a critical role in setting up heightened plasticity in the young, but ideas about what exactly those cells were doing were controversial. Since we couldn't study the cells, we could only hypothesize how they were behaving during critical learning periods," said Sandra J. Kuhlman, assistant professor of biological sciences at Carnegie Mellon and member of the joint Carnegie Mellon/University of Pittsburgh Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition.

The prevailing theory on inhibitory neurons was that, as they mature, they reach an increased level of activity that fosters optimal periods of learning. But as the brain ages into adulthood and the inhibitory neurons continue to mature, they become even stronger to the point where they impede learning.

Newly developed genetic and imaging technologies are now allowing researchers to visualize inhibitory neurons in the brain and record their activity in response to a variety of stimuli. As a postdoctoral student at UCLA in the laboratory of Associate Professor of Neurobiology Joshua T. Trachtenberg, Kuhlman and her colleagues used these new techniques to record the activity of inhibitory neurons during critical learning periods. They found that, during heightened periods of learning, the inhibitory neurons didn't fire more as had been expected. They fired much less frequently up to half as often.

"When you're young you haven't experienced much, so your brain needs to be a sponge that soaks up all types of information. It seems that the brain turns off the inhibitory cells in order to allow this to happen," Kuhlman said. "As adults we've already learned a great number of things, so our brains don't necessarily need to soak up every piece of information. This doesn't mean that adults can't learn, it just means when they learn, their neurons need to behave differently."


'/>"/>

Contact: Jocelyn Duffy
jhduffy@andrew.cmu.edu
412-268-9982
Carnegie Mellon University
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. UCLA researchers invent portable device for common kidney tests
2. Harvard Stem Cell researchers create cells that line blood vessels
3. Researchers figure out why gold nanoparticles can penetrate cell walls
4. Finnish researchers develop quick test kit for detecting phenolic compounds in drinking water
5. BIDMC cardiovascular institute researchers will lead $4 million NIH grant to study micrornas
6. UC Davis researchers discover molecular target for the bacterial infection brucellosis
7. Researchers report a critical role for the complement system in early macular degeneration
8. Researchers study seleniums effects on horses
9. Researchers discover protein that helps plants tolerate drought, flooding, other stresses
10. Fresh analysis of dinosaur skulls by penn researchers finds 3 species are 1
11. HSCI researchers extend human epigenomic map
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:5/6/2017)... 2017 RAM Group , Singaporean ... breakthrough in biometric authentication based on a ... to perform biometric authentication. These new sensors are based ... by Ram Group and its partners. This sensor will ... chains and security. Ram Group is a next ...
(Date:4/13/2017)... 2017 UBM,s Advanced Design and Manufacturing event ... emerging and evolving technology through its 3D Printing and ... alongside the expo portion of the event and feature ... focused on trending topics within 3D printing and smart ... event will take place June 13-15, 2017 at the Jacob ...
(Date:4/11/2017)... -- NXT-ID, Inc. (NASDAQ:   NXTD ) ("NXT-ID" ... of independent Directors Mr. Robin D. Richards and ... furthering the company,s corporate governance and expertise. ... Gino Pereira , Chief Executive Officer ... guidance and benefiting from their considerable expertise as we move ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:10/10/2017)... ... 10, 2017 , ... Dr. Bob Harman, founder and CEO of VetStem ... The event entitled “Stem Cells and Their Regenerative Powers,” was held ... Harman, DVM, MPVM was joined by two human doctors: Peter B. Hanson, M.D., Chief ...
(Date:10/10/2017)... PA (PRWEB) , ... October 10, 2017 , ... ... year’s recipients of 13 prestigious awards honoring scientists who have ... presented in a scheduled symposium during Pittcon 2018, the world’s leading conference and ...
(Date:10/9/2017)... ... October 09, 2017 , ... ... of medical marijuana products targeting the needs of consumers who are incorporating medical ... takes place in Phoenix, Arizona. , As operators of two successful Valley dispensaries, ...
(Date:10/7/2017)... , Oct. 6, 2017  The 2017 ... of three scientists, Jacques Dubochet, Joachim Frank ... developments in cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) have ... within the structural biology community. The winners worked ... can now routinely produce highly resolved, three-dimensional images ...
Breaking Biology Technology: