Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

A brake in the head: New insights into the working of the brain

Date:
September 19, 2013
Source:
Helmholtz Association
Summary:
Scientists have managed to acquire new insights into the functioning of a region in the brain that normally is involved in spatial orientation, but is damaged by the Alzheimer's disease. They investigated how nerve signals are suppressed inside the so-called entorhinal cortex. According to the researchers, this neuronal inhibition leads nerve cells to synchronize their activity.

A microscopic view of the entorhinal cortex. The bright spots are the bodies of neurons. Source: DZNE/Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Beed/SchmitzA microscopic view of the entorhinal cortexClick on the magnifying glass for a large image.
Credit: DZNE/Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Beed/Schmitz

Scientists of the Charité -- Universitätsmedizin Berlin and the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE) have managed to acquire new insights into the functioning of a region in the brain that normally is involved in spatial orientation, but is damaged by the Alzheimer's disease. They investigated how nerve signals are suppressed inside the so-called entorhinal cortex. According to the researchers, this neuronal inhibition leads nerve cells to synchronize their activity. The results of this study are now published in Neuron.

Related Articles


The entorhinal cortex is a link between the brain's memory centre, the hippocampus, and the other areas of the brain. It is, however, more than an interface that only transfers nervous impulses. The entorhinal cortex also has an independent role in learning and thinking processes. This is particularly applicable for spatial navigation. "We know precious little about how this happens," says Prof. Dietmar Schmitz, a researcher at the Cluster of Excellence NeuroCure at the Charité -- Universitätsmedizin Berlin and Site Speaker for the DZNE in Berlin. "This is why we are investigating in animal models how the nerve cells within the entorhinal cortex are connected with each other."

Signals wander inside the brain as electrical impulses from nerve cell to nerve cell. In general, signals are not merely forwarded. Rather, operation of the brain critically depends on the fact that the nerve impulses in some situations are activated and in other cases suppressed. A correct balance between suppression and excitation is decisive for all brain processes. "Until now research has mainly concentrated on signal excitation within the entorhinal cortex. This is why we looked into inhibition and detected a gradient inside the entorhinal cortex," explains Dr. Prateep Beed, lead author of the study. "This means that nerve signals are not suppressed equally. The blockage of the nerve signals is weaker in certain parts of the entorhinal cortex and stronger in others. The inhibition has, so to speak, a spatial profile."

When the brain is busy, nerve cells often coordinate their operation. In an electroencephalogram (EEG) -- a recording of the brain's electrical activity -- the synchronous rhythm of the nerve cells manifests as a periodic pattern. "It is a moot question as to how nerve cells synchronize their behavior and how they bring about such rhythms," says Beed. As he explains, it is also unclear whether these oscillations are only just a side effect or whether they trigger other phenomena. "But it has been demonstrated that neuronal oscillations accompany learning processes and even happen during sleep. They are a typical feature of the brain's activity," describes the scientist. "In our opinion, the inhibitory gradient, which we detected, plays an important role in creating the synchronous rhythm of the nerve cells and the related oscillations."

In the case of Alzheimer's, the entorhinal cortex is among the regions of the brain that are the first to be affected. "In recent times, studies related to this brain structure have increased. Here, already in the early stages of Alzheimer's, one finds the protein deposits that are typical of this disease," explains Schmitz, who headed the research. "It is also known that patients affected by Alzheimer's have a striking EEG. Our studies help us to understand how the nerve cells in the entorhinal cortex operate and how electrical activities might get interrupted in this area of the brain."


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. Prateep Beed, Anja Gundlfinger, Sophie Schneiderbauer, Jie Song, Claudia Böhm, Andrea Burgalossi, Michael Brecht, Imre Vida, Dietmar Schmitz. Inhibitory Gradient along the Dorsoventral Axis in the Medial Entorhinal Cortex. Neuron, 2013; 79 (6): 1197 DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2013.06.038

Cite This Page:

Helmholtz Association. "A brake in the head: New insights into the working of the brain." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 September 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130919105811.htm>.
Helmholtz Association. (2013, September 19). A brake in the head: New insights into the working of the brain. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130919105811.htm
Helmholtz Association. "A brake in the head: New insights into the working of the brain." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130919105811.htm (accessed November 28, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Friday, November 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Rural India's Low-Cost Sanitary Pad Revolution

Rural India's Low-Cost Sanitary Pad Revolution

AFP (Nov. 28, 2014) — One man hopes his invention -– a machine that produces cheap sanitary pads –- will help empower Indian women. Duration: 01:51 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Research on Bats Could Help Develop Drugs Against Ebola

Research on Bats Could Help Develop Drugs Against Ebola

AFP (Nov. 28, 2014) — In Africa's only biosafety level 4 laboratory, scientists have been carrying out experiments on bats to understand how virus like Ebola are being transmitted, and how some of them resist to it. Duration: 01:18 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
WHO Says Male Ebola Survivors Should Abstain From Sex

WHO Says Male Ebola Survivors Should Abstain From Sex

Newsy (Nov. 28, 2014) — WHO cites four studies that say Ebola can still be detected in semen up to 82 days after the onset of symptoms. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Leaves Orphans Alone in Sierra Leone

Ebola Leaves Orphans Alone in Sierra Leone

AFP (Nov. 27, 2014) — The Ebola epidemic sweeping Sierra Leone is having a profound effect on the country's children, many of whom have been left without any family members to support them. Duration: 01:02 Video provided by AFP
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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

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