Locating a car that’s blowing its horn in heavy traffic, channel-hopping between football and a thriller on TV without losing the plot, and not forgetting the start of a sentence by the time we have read to the end ? we consider all of these to be normal everyday functions. They enable us to react to fast-changing circumstances and to carry out even complex activities correctly. For this to work, the neuron circuits in our brain have to be very flexible. Scientists working under the leadership of neurobiologists Nils Brose and Erwin Neher at the Max Planck Institutes of Experimental Medicine and Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen have now discovered an important molecular mechanism that turns neurons into true masters of adaptation.
Neurons communicate with each other by means of specialised cell-to-cell contacts called synapses. First, an emitting neuron is excited and discharges chemical messengers known as neurotransmitters. These signal molecules then reach the receiving cell and influence its activation state. The transmitter discharge process is highly complex and strongly regulated. Its protagonists are synaptic vesicles, small blisters surrounded by a membrane, which are loaded with neurotransmitters and release them by fusing with the cell membrane. In order to be able to respond to stimulation at any time by releasing transmitters, a neuron must have a certain amount of vesicles ready to go at each of its synapses. Brose has been studying the molecular foundations of this stockpiling for years.
Scientists at the Gladstone Institutes have deciphered how a protein called Arc regulates the activity of neurons?providing much-needed clues into the brain’s ability to form long-lasting memories. These findings, reported today in Nature Neuroscience, also offer newfound understanding as to what goes on at the molecular level when this process becomes disrupted.
Leaving the house in the morning may seem simple, but with every move we make, our brains are working feverishly to create maps of the outside world that allow us to navigate and to remember where we are.
Glioblastoma, the most common and lethal form of brain tumor in adults, is challenging to treat because the tumors rapidly become resistant to therapy. As cancer researchers are learning more about the causes of tumor cell growth and drug resistance, they are discovering molecular pathways that might lead to new targeted therapies to potentially treat this deadly cancer.
Rats can’t usually see infrared light, but they have “touched” it in a Duke University lab.
The rats sensed the light as a sensation of touch after Duke neurobiologist Miguel Nicolelis and his team fitted the animals with an infrared detector wired to electrodes implanted in the part of the mammalian brain that processes information related to the sense of touch.
UT Southwestern Medical Center scientists have synthesized a peptide that shows potential for pharmaceutical development into agents for treating infections, neurodegenerative disorders, and cancer through an ability to induce a cell-recycling process called autophagy.
Wellcome Trust researchers have discovered how the brain assesses confidence in its decisions. The findings explain why some people have better insight into their choices than others.
A new study led by researchers at the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center ? Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC ? James) shows that the reason for this is in part due to the patient’s own immune system, which quickly works to eliminate the anticancer virus.
.Habits are behaviors wired so deeply in our brains that we perform them automatically. This allows you to follow the same route to work every day without thinking about it, liberating your brain to ponder other things, such as what to make for dinner.
The immune system is comprised of multiple cell types each capable of specialized functions to protect the body from invading pathogens and promote tissue repair after injury. One cell type, known as monocytes, circulates throughout the organism in the blood and enters tissues to actively phagocytose (eat!) foreign cells and assist in tissue healing. While monocytes can freely enter most bodily tissues, the healthy, normal brain is different as it is sequestered from circulating blood by a tight network of cells known as the blood brain barrier. Thus, the brain must maintain a highly specialized, resident immune cell, known as microglia, to remove harmful invaders and respond to tissue damage.