Navigation Links
Scientists discover how best to excite brain cells
Date:7/8/2011

ANN ARBOR, Mich.---Oh, the challenges of being a neuron, responsible for essential things like muscle contraction, gland secretion and sensitivity to touch, sound and light, yet constantly bombarded with signals from here, there and everywhere.

How on earth are busy nerve cells supposed to pick out and respond to relevant signals amidst all that information overload?

Somehow neurons do manage to accomplish the daunting task, and they do it with more finesse than anyone ever realized, new research by University of Michigan mathematician Daniel Forger and coauthors demonstrates. Their findings---which not only add to basic knowledge about how neurons work, but also suggest ways of better designing the brain implants used to treat diseases such as Parkinson's disease---were published July 7 in the online, open-access journal PLoS Computational Biology.

Forger and coauthors David Paydarfar at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and John Clay at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke studied neuronal excitation using mathematical models and experiments with that most famous of neuroscience study subjects, the squid giant axon---a long arm of a nerve cell that controls part of the water jet propulsion system in squid.

Among the key findings: Neurons are quite adept at their job. "They can pick out a signal from hundreds of other, similar signals," said Forger, an associate professor of mathematics in the College of Literature, Science and the Arts and a research assistant professor of computational medicine and bioinformatics at the U-M Medical School.

Neurons discriminate among signals based on the signals' "shape," (how a signal changes over time), and Forger and coauthors found that, contrary to prior belief, a neuron's preference depends on context. Neurons are often compared to transistors on a computer, which search for and respond to one specific pattern, but it turns out that neurons are more complex than that. They can search for more than one signal at the same time, and their choice of signal depends on what else is competing for their attention.

"We found that a neuron can prefer one signal---call it signal A---when compared with a certain group of signals, and a different signal---call it signal B---when compared with another group of signals," Forger said. This is true even when signal A and signal B aren't at all alike.

The findings could contribute in two main ways to the design and use of brain implants in treating neurological disorders.

"First, our results determine the optimal signals to stimulate a neuron," Forger said. "These signals are much more effective and require less battery power than what is currently used." Such efficiency would translate into less frequent surgery to replace batteries in patients with brain implants.

"Second, we found that the optimal stimulus is context-dependent," he said, "so the best signal will differ, depending on the part of the brain where the implant is placed."


'/>"/>

Contact: Nancy Ross-Flanigan
rossflan@umich.edu
734-647-1853
University of Michigan
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Jefferson scientists deliver toxic genes to effectively kill pancreatic cancer cells
2. Scientists identify novel inhibitor of human microRNA
3. Argonne scientists peer into heart of compound that may detect chemical, biological weapons
4. MU scientists go green with gold, distribute environmentally friendly nanoparticles
5. Scientists identify gene that may contribute to improved rice yield
6. Scientists discover why a mothers high-fat diet contributes to obesity in her children
7. MU scientists see how HIV matures into an infection
8. Earth scientists keep an eye on Texas
9. Thinking it through: Scientists call for policy to guide biofuels industry toward sustainability
10. Scientists identify a molecule that coordinates the movement of cells
11. Scientists Find new migratory patterns for Mediterranean and Western Atlantic bluefin tuna
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:1/25/2016)... , Jan. 25, 2016  Glencoe Software, the ... pharma and publication industries, will provide the data management ... Centre (NPSC). ... Phenotypic analysis measures ... whole organisms, allowing comparisons between states such as health ...
(Date:1/21/2016)... 21, 2016 --> ... market research report "Emotion Detection and Recognition Market by Technology ... (Facial Expression, Voice Recognition and Others), Services, Application ... to 2020", published by MarketsandMarkets, the global Emotion ... USD 22.65 Billion by 2020, at a CAGR ...
(Date:1/20/2016)... 20, 2016  Synaptics Incorporated (NASDAQ: SYNA ... today announced sampling of S1423, its newest ClearPad ... small screen applications including smartwatches, fitness trackers, and ... and rectangular shapes, as well as thick and ... moisture on screen, while wearing gloves, and supports ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:2/10/2016)... ... February 10, 2016 , ... SonaCare Medical, LLC reports the ... Sonalink™ remote monitoring. The inaugural launch of this new technology occurred over the ... Samuel Peretsman to a HIFU technical expert at SonaCare Medical headquarters. , ...
(Date:2/10/2016)... (PRWEB) , ... February 10, 2016 , ... ... now available on Microsoft Azure. On Azure, Arvados provides capabilities for managing and ... clear demand for Microsoft Azure from major institutions collecting and analyzing genomic data,” ...
(Date:2/10/2016)... ... ... Cenna Bioscience Inc., an emerging biopharmaceutical company focused on the discovery and ... been selected to present at the Cavendish Global Health Impact Forum taking place February ... of the Forum is to help family offices and foundations develop and implement their ...
(Date:2/9/2016)... ... ... With a presidential election in November and the future of U.S. healthcare in ... top healthcare leaders for a night and day of debates and discussions about what ... the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, will be held February 18 – 19, 2016 ...
Breaking Biology Technology: