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Team creates genetic 'GPS' system to comprehensively locate and track inhibitory nerve cells
Date:9/21/2011

Cold Spring Harbor, NY A team of neuroscientists at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) has succeeded in creating what amounts to a GPS system for locating and tracking a vital class of brain cells that until now has eluded comprehensive identification, particularly in living animals.

The cells in question are the class of neurons that release the neurotransmitter called GABA (gamma aminobutyric acid). GABA neurons function to inhibit or dial down the intensity of nerve signals propagated by excitatory neurons, which are triggered by neurotransmitters such as glutamate.

Excitatory neurons account for about 80% of all the neurons in the mammalian cortex. But without the modulatory intervention of the much rarer GABA neurons within the circuits they form, normal brain function would be impossible. Uninhibited neuronal excitation would lead to a constant state of seizure something like what is seen, episodically, in epilepsy.

Neuroanatomists have been trying to map the brain's circuitry for well over a century, but the organ's astonishing complexity anatomical and functional has insured that progress has been slow. Researchers have been able to map the entire set of circuits in the roundworm C. elegans. But that humble creature has only 302 neurons. The brains of mammals have millions of neurons, and within the tangle formed by their projections, called axons and dendrites, one finds those vital GABA cells, which until now could not be identified in any consistent way globally, throughout the mammalian brain.

CSHL Professor Z. Josh Huang and colleagues in his neuroscience lab have spent portions of the last five years working on a project to comprehensively label GABA neurons. The results of their highly time-consuming labors are described in a paper appearing Sept. 22 in the journal Neuron. The paper is likely to be influential in the neuroscience community since it describes the creation of different l
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Contact: Peter Tarr
tarr@cshl.edu
516-367-8455
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert

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