Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Between ear and brain, an orderly orchestra of synapses

Date:
June 5, 2012
Source:
University at Buffalo
Summary:
A new study finds that the ear delivers sound information to the brain in a surprisingly organized fashion.

Light microscope image of a bushy neuron in the cochlear nucleus, with a glass microelectrode for recording electrical activity inside the cell. The cell is about 12 micrometers in diameter. New research, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, shows that the synapses onto these cells are sorted according to their plasticity.
Credit: Dr. L. Pliss

The brain receives information from the ear in a surprisingly orderly fashion, according to a University at Buffalo study scheduled to appear June 6 in the Journal of Neuroscience.

>.

The research focuses on a section of the brain called the cochlear nucleus, the first way-station in the brain for information coming from the ear. In particular, the study examined tiny biological structures called synapses that transmit signals from the auditory nerve to the cochlear nucleus.

The major finding: The synapses in question are not grouped randomly. Instead, like orchestra musicians sitting in their own sections, the synapses are bundled together by a key trait: plasticity.

Plasticity relates to how quickly a synapse runs down the supply of neurotransmitter it uses to send signals, and plasticity can affect a synapse's sensitivity to different qualities of sound. Synapses that unleash supplies rapidly may provide good information on when a sound began, while synapses that release neurotransmitter at a more frugal pace may provide better clues on traits like timbre that persist over the duration of a sound.

UB Associate Professor Matthew Xu-Friedman, who led the study, said the findings raise new questions about the physiology of hearing. The research shows that synapses in the cochlear nucleus are arranged by plasticity, but doesn't yet explain why this arrangement is beneficial, he said.

"It's clearly important, because the synapses are sorted based on this. What we don't know is why," said Xu-Friedman, a member of UB's Department of Biological Sciences. "If you look inside a file cabinet and find all these pieces of paper together, you know it's important that they're together, but you may not know why."

In the study, Xu-Friedman and Research Assistant Professor Hua Yang used brain slices from mice to study about 20 cells in the cochlear nucleus called bushy cells, which receive information from synapses attached to auditory nerve fibers.

The experiments revealed that each bushy cell was linked to a network of synapses with similar plasticity. This means that bushy cells themselves may become specialized, developing unique sensitivities to particular characteristics of a sound, Xu-Friedman said.

The study hints that the cochlear nucleus may not be the only part of the brain where synapses are organized by plasticity. The researchers observed the phenomenon in the excitatory synapses of the cerebellum as well.

"One reason this may not have been noticed before is that measuring the plasticity of two different synapses onto one cell is technically quite difficult," Xu-Friedman said.


Story Source:

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


Cite This Page:

University at Buffalo. "Between ear and brain, an orderly orchestra of synapses." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 June 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/06/120605175256.htm>.
University at Buffalo. (2012, June 5). Between ear and brain, an orderly orchestra of synapses. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/06/120605175256.htm
University at Buffalo. "Between ear and brain, an orderly orchestra of synapses." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/06/120605175256.htm (accessed July 31, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

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
Peace Corps Pulls Workers From W. Africa Over Ebola Fears

Peace Corps Pulls Workers From W. Africa Over Ebola Fears

Newsy (July 30, 2014) The Peace Corps is one of several U.S.-based organizations to pull workers out of West Africa because of the Ebola outbreak. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Weather Kills 2K A Year, But Storms Aren't The Main Offender

Weather Kills 2K A Year, But Storms Aren't The Main Offender

Newsy (July 30, 2014) Health officials say 2,000 deaths occur each year in the U.S. due to weather, but it's excessive heat and cold that claim the most lives. 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