Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Every action has a beginning and an end (and it's all in you brain)

Date:
July 21, 2010
Source:
Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciencia
Summary:
Activity of certain neurons in the brain can signal the initiation and termination of behavioral sequences we learn anew, scientists have discovered. Furthermore, they found that this brain activity is essential for learning and executing novel action sequences, many times compromised in patients suffering from disorders such as Parkinson's or Huntington's.

Activity of certain neurons in the brain can signal the initiation and termination of behavioural sequences we learn anew, scientists have discovered. Furthermore, they found that this brain activity is essential for learning and executing novel action sequences, many times compromised in patients suffering from disorders such as Parkinson's or Huntington's.

Rui Costa, Principal Investigator of the Champalimaud Neuroscience Programme at the Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciκncia (Portugal), and Xin Jin, of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, National Institutes of Health (USA), describe their work in the latest issue of the journal Nature.

Animal behaviour, including our own, is very complex and is many times seen as a sequence of particular actions or movements, each with a precise start and stop step. This is evident in a wide range of abilities, from escaping a predator to playing the piano. In all of them there is a first initial step and one that signals the end. In this latest work, the researchers explored the role of certain brain circuits located in the basal ganglia in this process. They looked at the striatum, its dopaminergic input (dopamine-producing neurons that project into the striatum) and its output to the substantia nigra, another area in the basal ganglia, and found that both play an essential role in the initiation and termination of newly learnt behavioural sequences.

Rui Costa and Xin Jin show that when mice are learning to perform a particular behavioural sequence there is a specific neuronal activity that emerges in those brain circuits and signals the initiation and termination steps. Interestingly these are the circuits that degenerate in patients suffering from Parkinson's and Huntington's diseases, who also display impairments both in sequence learning, and in the initiation and termination of voluntary movements. Furthermore, the researchers were able to genetically manipulate those circuits in mice, and showed that this leads to deficits in sequence learning by the mice -- again, a feature shared with human patients affected with basal ganglia disorders.

Rui Costa explains the implications of these results: "For the execution of learned skills, like playing a piano or driving a car, it is essential to know when to start and stop each particular sequence of movements, and we found the neuronal circuits that are involved in the initiation and termination of action sequences that are learnt. This can be of particular relevance for patients suffering from Huntington's and Parkinson's disease, but also for people suffering from other disorders like compulsivity."

Xin Jun adds: "This start/stop activity appears during learning and disrupting it genetically severely impairs the learning of new action sequences. These findings may provide a possible insight into the mechanism underlying the sequence learning and execution impairments observed in Parkinson's and Huntington's patients who have lost basal ganglia neurons which may be important in generating initiation and termination activity in their brain."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciencia. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Xin Jin, Rui M. Costa. Start/stop signals emerge in nigrostriatal circuits during sequence learning. Nature, 2010; 466 (7305): 457 DOI: 10.1038/nature09263

Cite This Page:

Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciencia. "Every action has a beginning and an end (and it's all in you brain)." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 July 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/07/100721132629.htm>.
Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciencia. (2010, July 21). Every action has a beginning and an end (and it's all in you brain). ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/07/100721132629.htm
Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciencia. "Every action has a beginning and an end (and it's all in you brain)." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/07/100721132629.htm (accessed July 23, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Courts Conflicted Over Healthcare Law

Courts Conflicted Over Healthcare Law

AP (July 22, 2014) — Two federal appeals courts issued conflicting rulings Tuesday on the legality of the federally-run healthcare exchange that operates in 36 states. (July 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Why Do People Believe We Only Use 10 Percent Of Our Brains?

Why Do People Believe We Only Use 10 Percent Of Our Brains?

Newsy (July 22, 2014) — The new sci-fi thriller "Lucy" is making people question whether we really use all our brainpower. But, as scientists have insisted for years, we do. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists Find New Way To Make Human Platelets

Scientists Find New Way To Make Human Platelets

Newsy (July 22, 2014) — Boston scientists have discovered a new way to create fully functioning human platelets using a bioreactor and human stem cells. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Gilead's $1000-a-Pill Drug Could Cure Hep C in HIV-Positive People

Gilead's $1000-a-Pill Drug Could Cure Hep C in HIV-Positive People

TheStreet (July 21, 2014) — New research shows Gilead Science's drug Sovaldi helps in curing hepatitis C in those who suffer from HIV. In a medical study, the combination of Gilead's Hep C drug with anti-viral drug Ribavirin cured 76% of HIV-positive patients suffering from the most common hepatitis C strain. Hepatitis C and related complications have been a top cause of death in HIV-positive patients. Typical medication used to treat the disease, including interferon proteins, tended to react badly with HIV drugs. However, Sovaldi's %1,000-a-pill price tag could limit the number of patients able to access the treatment. TheStreet's Keris Lahiff reports from New York. Video provided by TheStreet
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