Navigation Links
What can change in the brain? Electrical synapses, research shows

The brain's ability to reorganize itself - strengthening or weakening connections between neurons or adding or subtracting those connections - allows it to form memories, make transitions between sleep and waking, and focus attention on objects of interest.

This phenomenon is a form of neural plasticity. Chemical synapses, junctions where neurons communicate using chemical substances, have long been implicated in plasticity. Now, for the first time, Brown University scientists have demonstrated that electrical synapses are also subject to long-term changes in the brains of mammals. Their work appears in the journal Science.

"The fact that you can change the function of electrical synapses, and change them for longer than a few seconds, means that they may play a role in certain kinds of plasticity," said Barry Connors, a Brown professor of neuroscience and co-author of the paper.

"But plasticity governs many critical brain functions. Since electrical synapses help synchronize the activity of brain cells, these junctions probably help regulate specific brain rhythms that occur while you are awake or sleeping. So this work helps us better understand, in a basic sense, how the brain regulates behavioral states."

Carole Landisman, currently a neurobiology researcher at Harvard Medical School, is the lead author of the paper. Landisman was an investigator in Connors' lab at Brown, where the experiments were conducted.

To better understand how electrical synapses function, Landisman and Connors recorded activity from rat neurons that were connected by electrical synapses and stimulated other brain cells using brief bursts of electricity to see how the neurons would respond. They also treated neurons with two different drugs. All three techniques either activated or blocked metabotropic glutamate receptors or mGluRs, a type of neural trigger that responds to the amino acid glutamate, a trans-mitter molecule in the brain. The result: a long-lasting, 20 to 30 percent reduction in electrical synapse strength.

While previous studies have shown a related effect in the electrical synapses of goldfish, Landisman and Connors are the first to show that it also occurs in mammals.

"The change we describe here is similar to long-term mGluR depression at chemical synapses," Landisman said. "In both cases, communication between neurons is reduced."

The cells Landisman and Connors used in their experiments came from the thalamic reticular nucleus, a thin sheet of neurons that is part of the thalamus. The thalamus is a small region in the center of the brain responsible for relaying sensory information to the cerebral cortex, where it is transformed into memories and emotions, speech and movement.

The thalamic reticular nucleus' role as a sort of switch, starting or stopping the flow of sensory stimuli to the cortex, may implicate it as a major player in the regulation of sleep and wakefulness, the researchers said.

The pairs' work sheds important light on electrical synapses, which Connors' group discovered in the forebrains of mammals six years ago. The function and importance of these protein channels - which allow for lightening-quick signals to pass between neurons via ionic current - is only beginning to be understood. Last year, the Connors lab published research showing that electrical synapses help set the brain's master circadian clock.


'"/>

Source:Brown University


Related biology news :

1. Elusive HIV shape change revealed; Key clue to how virus infects cells
2. Researchers trace evolution to relatively simple genetic changes
3. Plants defy Mendels inheritance laws, may prompt textbook changes
4. Small species back-up giant marsupial climate change extinction claim
5. Africa to take it on chin again with climate change
6. Fox Chase study shows that weakened T-cell receptor signals change T-cell lineage
7. By creating molecular bridge, scientists change function of a protein
8. Logging changed ecological balance for monkeys, damaged health
9. York scientists warn of dramatic impact of climate change on Africa
10. Lands surface change on Alaska tundra creating longer, warmer summers in Arctic
11. New markers of climate change
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:


(Date:11/19/2016)... , Nov. 18, 2016 Securus Technologies, ... solutions for public safety, investigation, corrections and monitoring, announced ... smaller competitor, ICSolutions, to have an independent technology judge ... the most modern high tech/sophisticated telephone calling platform, and ... customers that they do most of what we do ...
(Date:11/15/2016)... , Nov 15, 2016 Research and Markets ... Forecast to 2021" report to their offering. ... ... 16.18 Billion by 2021 from USD 6.21 Billion in 2016, growing ... Growth of the bioinformatics market is driven by the growing ...
(Date:6/22/2016)... ANGELES , June 22, 2016 /PRNewswire/ ... identity management and verification solutions, has partnered ... edge software solutions for Visitor Management, Self-Service ... provides products that add functional enhancements ... partnership provides corporations and venues with an ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:12/8/2016)...  Biotheranostics today announced that new data will ... Cancer Index (BCI) in identifying which patients with ... for disease recurrence and might benefit from extended ... advancing the understanding of the value of BCI ... inform decisions related to patient treatment. These data ...
(Date:12/8/2016)... Portland, Oregon (PRWEB) , ... December 08, 2016 ... ... modules and the FrontPanel SDK that provide essential device-to-computer interconnect using USB or ... do not require FrontPanel support. The FOMD-ACV-A4 is a small, thin, SODIMM-style module ...
(Date:12/8/2016)... ... 08, 2016 , ... KBioBox llc announced today the launch ... developed a sophisticated “3 click” gene dditing off target analysis program and a ... https://www.kbiobox.com/ and powered by the company’s proprietary BioEngine. Scientists, pharmaceutical ...
(Date:12/8/2016)... N.J. , Dec. 8, 2016  Soligenix, ... late-stage biopharmaceutical company focused on developing and commercializing ... an unmet medical need, announced today the long-term ... with SGX942 (dusquetide), a first-in-class Innate Defense Regulator ... in head and neck cancer patients undergoing chemoradiation ...
Breaking Biology Technology: