Navigation Links
Simple mathematcal pattern describes shape of neuron 'jungle'
Date:6/20/2012

Neurons come in an astounding assortment of shapes and sizes, forming a thick inter-connected jungle of cells. Now, UCL neuroscientists have found that there is a simple pattern that describes the tree-like shape of all neurons.

Neurons look remarkably like trees, and connect to other cells with many branches that effectively act like wires in an electrical circuit, carrying impulses that represent sensation, emotion, thought and action.

Over 100 years ago, Santiago Ramon y Cajal, the father of modern neuroscience, sought to systematically describe the shapes of neurons, and was convinced that there must be a unifying principle underlying their diversity.

Cajal proposed that neurons spread out their branches so as to use as little wiring as possible to reach other cells in the network. Reducing the amount of wiring between cells provides additional space to pack more neurons into the brain, and therefore increases its processing power.

New work by UCL neuroscientists, published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, has revisited this century-old hypothesis using modern computational methods. They show that a simple computer program which connects points with as little wiring as possible can produce tree-like shapes which are indistinguishable from real neurons - and also happen to be very beautiful. They also show that the shape of neurons follows a simple mathematical relationship called a power law.

Power laws have been shown to be common across the natural world, and often point to simple rules underlying complex structures. Dr Herman Cuntz (UCL Wolfson Institute for Biomedical Research) and colleagues find that the power law holds true for many types of neurons gathered from across the animal kingdom, providing strong evidence for Ramon y Cajal's general principle.

The UCL team further tested the theory by examining neurons in the olfactory bulb, a part of the brain where new brain cells are constantly being formed. These neurons grow and form new connections even in the adult brain, and therefore provide a unique window into the rules behind the development of neural trees in a mature neural circuit.

The team analysed the change in shape of the newborn olfactory neurons over several days, and found that the growth of these neurons also follow the power law, providing further evidence to support the theory.

Dr Hermann Cuntz said: "The ultimate goal of neuroscience is to understand how the impenetrable neural jungle can give rise to the complexity of behaviour.

"Our findings confirm Cajal's original far-reaching insight that there is a simple pattern behind the circuitry, and provides hope that neuroscientists will someday be able to see the forest for the trees."


'/>"/>

Contact: Clare Ryan
clare.ryan@ucl.ac.uk
44-203-108-3846
University College London
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. ORNL microscopy yields first proof of ferroelectricity in simplest amino acid
2. Consumers need simple, concise messages about benefits of phytonutrients
3. 23andMe contributes to genetic discoveries related to male pattern baldness
4. Movement patterns of endangered turtle vary from Pacific to Atlantic
5. Powerful sequencing technology decodes DNA folding pattern
6. New paper by Notre Dame researchers describes method for cleaning up nuclear waste
7. Not a 1-way street: Evolution shapes environment of Connecticut lakes
8. International team uncovers new genes that shape brain size, intelligence
9. Did climate change shape human evolution?
10. The shape of things to come: NIST probes the promise of nanomanufacturing using DNA origami
11. Glycogen accumulation in neurons causes brain damage and shortens the lives of flies and mice
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:3/22/2016)... PROVO and SANDY, Utah ... Ontario (NSO), which operates the highest sample volume laboratory ... and Tute Genomics and UNIConnect, leaders in clinical sequencing ... announced the launch of a project to establish the ... panel. NSO has been contracted by ...
(Date:3/15/2016)... 15, 2016 Yissum Research Development Company ... company of the Hebrew University, announced today the formation ... technology of various human biological indicators. Neteera Technologies has ... from private investors. ... detection of electromagnetic emissions from sweat ducts, enables reliable ...
(Date:3/10/2016)... PUNE, India , March 10, 2016 ... to a new market research report "Identity and Access ... SSO, & Audit, Compliance, and Governance), by Organization Size, ... Forecast to 2020", published by MarketsandMarkets, The market is ... to USD 12.78 Billion by 2020, at a Compound ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:4/27/2016)... Columbia , April 27, 2016 ... "NanoStruck") (CSE: NSK) (OTCPink: NSKQB) ( Frankfurt ... Anschluss an ihre Pressemitteilung vom 13. August 2015 ... hat, ihre Finanzen um zusätzliche 200.000.000 Einheiten auf ... Kanadische Dollar zu bringen. Davon wurden 157.900.000 Einheiten ...
(Date:4/27/2016)... ... April 27, 2016 , ... PathSensors, Inc., a leading ... Dr. Lamka will assist PathSensors in expanding the use of the company’s CANARY® ... CANARY® test platform for the detection of harmful pathogens, including a number of ...
(Date:4/27/2016)... , April 27, 2016 MedDay, ... disorders, today announces the appointment of Catherine Moukheibir as Chairman ... MedDay,s previous Chairman, Jean Jacques Garaud , who contributed ... change is effective immediately. Catherine started her career ... and London .  She held ...
(Date:4/26/2016)... ... 26, 2016 , ... The European Patent Office (EPO) today announced ... finalists for the European Inventor Award 2016 in the category "Non-European countries." The winners ... a ceremony in Lisbon on June 9th. , The human capacity to walk with ...
Breaking Biology Technology: