Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Case Biologists Show That What A Neuron Can Do Is A Function Of Mechanical Context

Date:
February 14, 2006
Source:
Case Western Reserve University
Summary:
The brain as command center for bodily movement was too simple an idea, thought the Russian physiologist Nicolas Bernstein some 60 years ago. Bernstein pointed out in 1940 that the great flexibility of the body, coupled with unexpected events in the world, meant that the nervous system had to prepare the body in advance for what might happen next. Using computer technologies, researchers at Case Western Reserve University have provided direct evidence for Bernstein's hypothesis.

Hillel Chiel.
Credit: Image courtesy of Case Western Reserve University

The brain as command center for bodily movement was too simple an idea, thought the Russian physiologist Nicolas Bernstein some 60 years ago. After studying human movements for years, Bernstein pointed out in 1940 that the great flexibility of the body, coupled with unexpected events in the world, meant that the nervous system had to prepare the body in advance for what might happen next.

If Bernstein were right, it would affect the design of prosthetic devices and biologically inspired robots.

Using computer technologies unavailable to their predecessor, researchers at Case Western Reserve University have provided direct evidence for Bernstein's hypothesis. Reporting on their findings in the Journal of Neuroscience are Hillel Chiel, professor of biology, neurosciences and biomedical engineering; Hui Ye, Chiel's former graduate student who is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the Toronto Western Research Institute; and Dr. Douglas Morton, another former graduate student who is currently a radiologist at Premier Medical Imaging in Michigan.

To test Bernstein's hypothesis in animals, Ye, Morton and Chiel studied the neural control of swallowing in the sea slug Aplysia californica. In stronger swallows, part of the neural output sets up feeding muscles so that they act in new ways. Specifically, a "grasper" muscle, controlled by motor neuron B8, acquires a new function: it not only grasps the food, but also pulls it in.

Another muscle, called the "hinge," that exerts no force in weak swallows can pull the grasper back during strong swallows. This means that the motor neuron for the hinge, B7, affects behavior in one context, but not in another.

These studies provide the first demonstration of Bernstein's hypothesis in a behaving animal, and indicate that the behavioral roles of motor neurons can change depending on how parts of the body are positioned.

The Case scientists have previously applied their research findings to the creation of mechanical devices that mimic the interactions of an animal's neurons and muscles to produce movement.

"This study demonstrates the interconnectedness of the neurons and the muscles and how it is just as relevant in humans as it is in the less complicated system of the slug," said Chiel, who has patented robotic graspers based on the sea slug's behavior.

Understanding how neurons trigger and interact with the muscles will help Chiel and his research group develop new generations of robots that can move through water or tube-like structures such as pipes, blood vessels and the colon.



Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Case Western Reserve University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Case Western Reserve University. "Case Biologists Show That What A Neuron Can Do Is A Function Of Mechanical Context." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 February 2006. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/02/060213103724.htm>.
Case Western Reserve University. (2006, February 14). Case Biologists Show That What A Neuron Can Do Is A Function Of Mechanical Context. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/02/060213103724.htm
Case Western Reserve University. "Case Biologists Show That What A Neuron Can Do Is A Function Of Mechanical Context." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/02/060213103724.htm (accessed August 28, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Treadmill 'trips' May Reduce Falls for Elderly

Treadmill 'trips' May Reduce Falls for Elderly

AP (Aug. 28, 2014) Scientists are tripping the elderly on purpose in a Chicago lab in an effort to better prevent seniors from falling and injuring themselves in real life. (Aug.28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Alice in Wonderland Syndrome

Alice in Wonderland Syndrome

Ivanhoe (Aug. 27, 2014) It’s an unusual condition with a colorful name. Kids with “Alice in Wonderland” syndrome see sudden distortions in objects they’re looking at or their own bodies appear to change size, a lot like the main character in the Lewis Carroll story. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Stopping Schizophrenia Before Birth

Stopping Schizophrenia Before Birth

Ivanhoe (Aug. 27, 2014) Scientists have long called choline a “brain booster” essential for human development. Not only does it aid in memory and learning, researchers now believe choline could help prevent mental illness. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Personalized Brain Vaccine for Glioblastoma

Personalized Brain Vaccine for Glioblastoma

Ivanhoe (Aug. 27, 2014) Glioblastoma is the most common and aggressive brain cancer in humans. Now a new treatment using the patient’s own tumor could help slow down its progression and help patients live longer. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins