Brain neurons are adjusted on the fly

Brain neurons are adjusted on the fly

An international group of scientists has discovered a new molecular “switch” that controls the properties of a specific type of neurons to tune with changes in activity that occur in the neural network to which they belong.

It is interneurons rapid fire, a type of neurons that act as conductors, directing and synchronizing the activity of other neurons in the cerebral cortex, the outer layer of the brain responsible for cognition, language and memory , he told Efe professor at the Institute of Neurosciences of Alicante and study co-author Oscar Marin.

The finding, published in the journal Science, is a work of the British Center for Development Neurobiology at King’s College London and the Institute of Neurosciences of Alicante (a joint CSIC and the University Miguel Hernandez).

The team has found that rapid-fire interneurons can adapt their properties to respond to changes that occur in the neural network in which they are integrated, which occurs, for example, when we learn motor activity.

Computers and brains

Often, computers are used as a metaphor of the brain, where memory boards and microprocesadores taken as representations of neural circuits and neurons, respectively.

However, the brain is a highly dynamic system that organizes itself and constantly and very different from the way computers changed.

So while microprocessors in computers always have the same function for which they have been produced in the brain, some neurons -the microprocesadores – can change its properties dynamically.

During the study, scientists analyzed what apparently were two types of interneurons quick shot to reach the conclusion that it was actually only one, but with the ability to oscillate between two different base states.

In addition, they identified the molecular factor responsible for adjusting the properties of these neurons. It is a transcription factor (a protein capable of affecting gene expression) known as Er81.

Brain flexibility

This finding provides “a mechanistic explanation for the role of brain activity in regulating the properties of interneurons,” says the lead researcher, Nathalie Dehorter.

Work results, adds, “support the idea that the activity plays an important role in specifying neuronal properties, which are adapted in response to external influences to encode information”.

That is, our “hardware” can adjust, at least to some extent, it works, “something like if each of these interneurons were two chips into one,” qualifies Marin.

Understanding the dynamic mechanisms leading to the development of brain functions through constant development and remodeling of neural circuits as well as the limitations imposed by the disease and aging to the multimodal plasticity has important implications beyond neuroscience fundamental education policies from the brain repair.

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