Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Scientists recreate brain cell networks providing view of activity behind memory formation

Date:
May 31, 2011
Source:
University of Pittsburgh
Summary:
Researchers have reproduced the brain's complex electrical impulses onto models made of living brain cells that provide an unprecedented view of the neuron activity behind memory formation.

A fluorescent image of the neural network model developed at Pitt reveals the interconnection (red) between individual brain cells (blue). Adhesive proteins (green) allow the network to be constructed on silicon discs for experimentation.
Credit: Image courtesy of University of Pittsburgh

University of Pittsburgh researchers have reproduced the brain's complex electrical impulses onto models made of living brain cells that provide an unprecedented view of the neuron activity behind memory formation.

The team fashioned ring-shaped networks of brain cells that were not only capable of transmitting an electrical impulse, but also remained in a state of persistent activity associated with memory formation, said lead researcher Henry Zeringue [zuh-rang], a bioengineering professor in Pitt's Swanson School of Engineering. Magnetic resonance images have suggested that working memories are formed when the cortex, or outer layer of the brain, launches into extended electrical activity after the initial stimulus, Zeringue explained. But the brain's complex structure and the diminutive scale of neural networks mean that observing this activity in real time can be nearly impossible, he added.

The Pitt team, however, was able to generate and prolong this excited state in groups of 40 to 60 brain cells harvested from the hippocampus of rats -- the part of the brain associated with memory formation. In addition, the researchers produced the networks on glass slides that allowed them to observe the cells' interplay. The work was conducted in Zeringue's lab by Pitt bioengineering doctoral student Ashwin Vishwanathan, who most recently reported the work in the Royal Society of Chemistry (UK) journal, Lab on a Chip. Vishwanathan coauthored the paper with Zeringue and Guo-Qiang Bi, a neurobiology professor in Pitt's School of Medicine. The work was conducted through the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition, which is jointly operated by Pitt and Carnegie Mellon University.

To produce the models, the Pitt team stamped adhesive proteins onto silicon discs. Once the proteins were cultured and dried, cultured hippocampus cells from embryonic rats were fused to the proteins and then given time to grow and connect to form a natural network. The researchers disabled the cells' inhibitory response and then excited the neurons with an electrical pulse.

Zeringue and his colleagues were able to sustain the resulting burst of network activity for up to what in neuronal time is 12 long seconds. Compared to the natural duration of .25 seconds at most, the model's 12 seconds permitted an extensive observation of how the neurons transmitted and held the electrical charge, Zeringue said.

Unraveling the mechanics of this network communication is key to understanding the cellular and molecular basis of memory creation, Zeringue said. The format developed at Pitt makes neural networks more accessible for experimentation. For instance, the team found that when activity in one neuron is suppressed, the others respond with greater excitement.

"We can look at neurons as individuals, but that doesn't reveal a lot," Zeringue said. "Neurons are more connected and interdependent than any other cell in the body. Just because we know how one neuron reacts to something, a whole network can react not only differently, but sometimes in the complete opposite manner predicted."

Zeringue will next work to understand the underlying factors that govern network communication and stimulation, such as the various electrical pathways between cells and the genetic makeup of individual cells.


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. Ashwin Vishwanathan, Guo-Qiang Bi, Henry C. Zeringue. Ring-shaped neuronal networks: a platform to study persistent activity. Lab on a Chip, 2011; 11 (6): 1081 DOI: 10.1039/C0LC00450B

Cite This Page:

University of Pittsburgh. "Scientists recreate brain cell networks providing view of activity behind memory formation." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 31 May 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110525141542.htm>.
University of Pittsburgh. (2011, May 31). Scientists recreate brain cell networks providing view of activity behind memory formation. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110525141542.htm
University of Pittsburgh. "Scientists recreate brain cell networks providing view of activity behind memory formation." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110525141542.htm (accessed August 1, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Friday, August 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

House Republicans Vote to Sue Obama Over Healthcare Law

House Republicans Vote to Sue Obama Over Healthcare Law

Reuters - US Online Video (July 31, 2014) The Republican-led House of Representatives votes to sue President Obama, accusing him of overstepping his executive authority in making changes to the Affordable Care Act. Mana Rabiee reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Despite Health Questions, E-Cigs Are Beneficial: Study

Despite Health Questions, E-Cigs Are Beneficial: Study

Newsy (July 31, 2014) Citing 81 previous studies, new research out of London suggests the benefits of smoking e-cigarettes instead of regular ones outweighs the risks. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dangerous Bacteria Kills One in Florida

Dangerous Bacteria Kills One in Florida

AP (July 31, 2014) Sarasota County, Florida health officials have issued a warning against eating raw oysters and exposing open wounds to coastal and inland waters after a dangerous bacteria killed one person and made another sick. (July 31) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Health Insurers' Profits Slide

Health Insurers' Profits Slide

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 30, 2014) Obamacare-related costs were said to be behind the profit plunge at Wellpoint and Humana, but Wellpoint sees the new exchanges boosting its earnings for the full year. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
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