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:6/2/2016)... , June 2, 2016   The Weather Company , ... Watson Ads, an industry-first capability in which consumers will be ... able to ask questions via voice or text and receive ... Marketers have long sought an advertising ... that can be personal, relevant and valuable; and can scale ...
(Date:6/1/2016)... , June 1, 2016 Favorable ... Election Administration and Criminal Identification to Boost Global Biometrics ... recently released TechSci Research report, " Global Biometrics Market ... Competition Forecast and Opportunities, 2011 - 2021", the global ... by 2021, on account of growing security concerns across ...
(Date:5/20/2016)... , May 20, 2016  VoiceIt is excited ... with VoicePass. By working together, VoiceIt ...  Because VoiceIt and VoicePass take slightly different approaches ... increases both security and usability. ... about this new partnership. "This marketing ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/27/2016)... San Diego, CA (PRWEB) , ... June 27, 2016 , ... ... mClinical solutions for clinical trials, announced today the Clinical Reach Virtual Patient ... and their care circle with the physician and clinical trial team. , Using the ...
(Date:6/27/2016)... ... June 27, 2016 , ... ... Amgen, will join the faculty of the University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler ... of strategy and entrepreneurship at UNC Kenan-Flagler, with a focus on the school’s ...
(Date:6/27/2016)... 27, 2016   Ginkgo Bioworks , a leading ... was today awarded as one of the World ... world,s most innovative companies. Ginkgo Bioworks is engineering ... real world in the nutrition, health and consumer ... with customers including Fortune 500 companies to design ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... Epic Sciences unveiled a liquid biopsy ... PARP inhibitors by targeting homologous recombination deficiency (HRD) ... test has already been incorporated into numerous clinical ... Over 230 clinical trials are investigating ... PARP, ATM, ATR, DNA-PK and WEE-1. Drugs targeting ...
Breaking Biology Technology: