Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Neural thermostat keeps brain running efficiently

Date:
January 15, 2010
Source:
Yale University
Summary:
Our energy-hungry brains operate reliably and efficiently while processing a flood of sensory information, thanks to a sort of neuronal thermostat that regulates activity in the visual cortex, researchers have found.

A 'neuronal thermostat' keeps our energy-hungry brains operating reliably and efficiently while processing a flood of sensory information, new research has found.
Credit: iStockphoto

Our energy-hungry brains operate reliably and efficiently while processing a flood of sensory information, thanks to a sort of neuronal thermostat that regulates activity in the visual cortex, Yale researchers have found.

The actions of inhibitory neurons allow the brain to save energy by suppressing non-essential visual stimuli and processing only key information, according to research published in the January 13 issue of the journal Neuron.

"It's called the iceberg phenomenon, where only the tip is sharply defined yet we are aware that there is a much larger portion underwater that we can not see," said David McCormick, the Dorys McConnell Duberg Professor of Neurobiology at Yale School of Medicine, researcher of the Kavli Institute of Neuroscience and co-senior author of the study. "These inhibitory neurons set the water level and control how much of the iceberg we see. We don't need to see the entire iceberg to know that it is there."

The brain uses the highest percentage of the body's energy, so scientists have long wondered how it can operate both efficiently and reliably when processing a deluge of sensory information. Most studies of vision have concentrated on activity of excitatory neurons that fire when presented with simple stimuli, such as bright or dark bars. The Yale team wanted to measure what happens outside of the classical field of vision when the brain has to deal with more complex scenes in real life.

By studying brains of animals watching movies of natural scenes, the Yale team found that inhibitory cells in the visual cortex control how the excitatory cells interact with each other.

"We found that these inhibitory cells take a lead role in making the visual cortex operate in a sparse and reliable manner," McCormick said.

James Mazer was co-senior author of the paper with McCormick. Bilal Haider, a Yale graduate student, was lead author. Other Yale authors of the paper were Matthew R. Krause, Alvaro Duque, Yuguo Yu and Jonathan Touryan.

The work was funded by the National Eye Institute and the Kavli Foundation.


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. Bilal Haider, Matthew R. Krause, Alvaro Duque, Yuguo Yu, Jonathan Touryan, James A. Mazer, David A. McCormick. Synaptic and Network Mechanisms of Sparse and Reliable Visual Cortical Activity during Nonclassical Receptive Field Stimulation. Neuron, 2010; 65 (Issue 1): 107-121 DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2009.12.005

Cite This Page:

Yale University. "Neural thermostat keeps brain running efficiently." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 January 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/01/100113122255.htm>.
Yale University. (2010, January 15). Neural thermostat keeps brain running efficiently. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 18, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/01/100113122255.htm
Yale University. "Neural thermostat keeps brain running efficiently." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/01/100113122255.htm (accessed April 18, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Friday, April 18, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Scientists Create Stem Cells From Adult Skin Cells

Scientists Create Stem Cells From Adult Skin Cells

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2014) The breakthrough could mean a cure for some serious diseases and even the possibility of human cloning, but it's all still a way off. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Obama: 8 Million Healthcare Signups

Obama: 8 Million Healthcare Signups

AP (Apr. 17, 2014) President Barack Obama gave a briefing Thursday announcing 8 million people have signed up under the Affordable Care Act. He blasted continued Republican efforts to repeal the law. (April 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Is Apathy A Sign Of A Shrinking Brain?

Is Apathy A Sign Of A Shrinking Brain?

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2014) A recent study links apathetic feelings to a smaller brain. Researchers say the results indicate a need for apathy screening for at-risk seniors. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) A new study conducted by researchers at Northwestern and Harvard suggests even casual marijuana use can alter your brain. Video provided by Newsy
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