Navigation Links
Speak up: Louder neurons form more connections

As the brain develops, neurons reach out helter-skelter forming new connections, only a small number of which take hold. How the brain chooses which connections to keep and which to prune back appears to be governed by which branches have the most electrical activity—a finding that could help to explain how early experiences guide brain development.

The work, published in the April 21 issue of Nature, takes advantage of tiny, see-through zebrafish. Stephen Smith, PhD, professor of molecular and cellular physiology at the Stanford University School of Medicine, and his graduate student Jackie Hua immersed 3-day-old fish in a breathable, Jell-O-like substance that kept the fish alive but immobile. The researchers could then focus video cameras on the fish’s developing brain to watch how the branches of individual neurons grew and shrank over time.

It turns out that determining which of the branches will grow follows an age-old axiom: The squeaky neuron gets the grease. “Louder neurons drown out their quieter neighbors,?Smith said.

Working out this seemingly simple rule took some technical finesse. Hua created zebrafish with a few brain cells that made a protein that prevented them from firing their normal electrical signals. These cells were also engineered to produce a protein that glowed green under the appropriate light.

Hua looked for green neurons in her immobilized fish to see how their branches fared compared with neighboring neurons that fired normally. The green neurons didn’t compete well.

Although the poorly-firing green neurons still formed extensive branching structures, which the researchers call the neuron’s arbor, most of those branches eventually receded while neighboring neurons formed a large number of stable connections. When the fish were five days old, the green neurons had a smaller, less complex arbor than those of neighboring neurons.

“We know that the arbor should occupy a certain amount of space , and in these fish it doesn’t take up that much space,?Hua said.

Hua gave those losing neurons a fighting chance through another molecular twist. She managed to silence some neurons near the green, quietly-firing cells. When she did that, the green cells were able to compete successfully and formed longer, more complex arbors.

Although this work specifically examined the brains of fish, Smith said the same rules likely apply to all neurons, including those in the human brain. “Probably these same things are happening all the time,?he said.

Neurons that fire regularly while learning to recognize a new person’s face, for example, will form larger arbors with more connections that help retain that memory for the future. Likewise, neurons stimulated by engaging toys or experiences will probably create larger arbors than similar neurons in less exciting conditions.

“We are looking at a dynamic part of development,?Smith said. “These are the connections that let us think and fight and love.?/p>

Source:Stanford University

Related biology news :

1. First real-time view of developing neurons reveals surprises, say Stanford researchers
2. One gene links newborn neurons with those that die in diseases such as Alzheimers
3. Researchers make surprise discovery that some neurons can transmit three signals at once
4. Eating, body weight regulated by specific neurons
5. New neurons take baby steps in the adult brain
6. Algal protein in worm neurons allows remote control of behavior by light
7. Picking apart how neurons learn
8. Researchers get neurons and silicon talking
9. Mechanism for memory revealed in neurons of electric fish
10. Attention shoppers: Researchers find neurons that encode the value of different goods
11. Growth factor-promoting angiogenesis expressed in tumor cells and normal neurons

Post Your Comments:

(Date:11/26/2015)... 2015 Research and Markets ( ) ... Sensors - Technology and Patent Infringement Risk Analysis" ... --> Fingerprint sensors using capacitive technology ... fingerprint sensor vendor Idex forecasts an increase of 360% ... devices and of the fingerprint sensor market between 2014 ...
(Date:11/18/2015)... Nov. 18, 2015  As new scientific discoveries deepen ... and other healthcare providers face challenges in better using ... patients. In addition, as more children continue to survive ... adulthood and old age. John M. Maris, ... Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) . --> ...
(Date:11/17/2015)... 17, 2015  Vigilant Solutions announces today that Mr. ... of Directors. --> --> ... from the partnership at TPG Capital, one of the ... $140 Billion in revenue.  He founded and led TPG,s ... TPG companies, from 1997 to 2013.  In his first ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/30/2015)... 2015  Aytu BioScience, Inc. (OTCQB: AYTU), a commercial-stage ... will present at two upcoming investor conferences. Aytu is ... virtual conference, to be held December 3, 2015, and ... held December 2 nd & 3 rd , ... streamed live via webcast. Josh Disbrow , ...
(Date:11/30/2015)... N.J. and PETACH TIKVAH, Israel ... (NASDAQ: BCLI ), a leading developer of adult ... wholly-owned subsidiary, Brainstorm Cell Therapeutics Ltd., has been awarded an ... Office of the Chief Scientist (OCS). This grant, the ... Brainstorm for 2015 activities to approximately $1.8 million (approximately NIS7 ...
(Date:11/26/2015)... 26, 2015 ... Accutest Research Laboratories, a leading independent ... (CRO), has formed a strategic partnership ... Temple Health for joint work on ... ) , --> ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... Studies reveal the differences in species of bacteria ... for more effective treatment for one of the most commonly ... --> --> Gum disease is one ... relatively little was understood about the bacteria associated with it ... researchers from the WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition together with ...
Breaking Biology Technology: