Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Brains have switch board to guide behavior in response to external stimuli

Date:
February 14, 2014
Source:
VIB
Summary:
How do our brains combine information from the external world (sensory stimulation) with information on our internal state such as hunger, fear or stress? Scientists demonstrate that the habenula, a specific part in our brain consisting of neural circuits, acts as a gate for sensory information, thus regulating behavior in response to external stimuli.

Emre Yaksi holding zebrafish.
Credit: ©VIB-matuvu, 2013

How do our brains combine information from the external world (sensory stimulation) with information on our internal state such as hunger, fear or stress? NERF-scientists demonstrate that the habenula, a specific part in our brain consisting of neural circuits, acts as a gate for sensory information, thus regulating behavior in response to external stimuli.

Related Articles


Emre Yaksi (NERF -- VIB/imec/KU Leuven): "Our brain has high levels of spontaneous activity, even in the absence of sensory stimulation. We think that this spontaneous neural activity in combination with sensory stimulation results in a particular internal state of the habenula. By this functional organization the habenula acts as a kind of switch board, selecting certain sensory information and sending it to the downstream brainstem areas. Thus the habenula regulats our behavior. It will be interesting to test whether experience or learning can alter the functional organization of these circuits."

Unraveling neural circuits

Neuroscientists all over the world are gradually unraveling the processes in our brain. However our brain still remains a mystery. The activity of single neurons and the functioning of 'one-to-one' interactions have been examined in detail. Yet, the information processing at the level of neural circuits is less well-understood. Emre Yaksi and his NERF-colleagues integrate neurobiology and nano-scale engineering to study brain function at multiple levels of detail. This multidisciplinary approach enables the researchers to look beyond the brain cells, and it provides them with great tools to study neural circuits and their link with behavior.

Exploring brain structures in zebrafish

Zebrafish is a useful model organism for neurological research. To find out how brains combine external and internal stimuli, Suresh Kumar Jetti, Nuria Vendrell Llopis and Emre Yaksi focused on the dorsal habenula (dHb) in zebrafish. The dHb is an equivalent of the habenula in mammals and relays information from the sensory areas to the brain region that regulates animal behavior under stress conditions. In zebrafish, the dHb receives input from cells of the olfactory bulbthus odors can trigger distinct behaviors (e.g. feeding, courtship, alarm).

Spontaneous activity is highly organized

The ongoing spontaneous activity in neurons was thought to be associated with several neurological phenomenons, such as sleep, or the learning and sensory process. The researchers observed that dHb is highly active even in the absence of any sensory stimulation. Moreover they showed that the spontaneous activity of dHb is not random but highly structured in the spatial clusters of neurons. Later the team showed that this spontaneous activity is very prominent during sensory stimulation and governs the odor responses in the dHb. The scientists their conclusion is that dHb acts like a switch board for the sensory information and is controlled by spontaneous activity.


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. Suresh Kumar Jetti, Nuria Vendrell-Llopis, Emre Yaksi. Spontaneous Activity Governs Olfactory Representations in Spatially Organized Habenular Microcircuits. Current Biology, 2014; DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2014.01.015

Cite This Page:

VIB. "Brains have switch board to guide behavior in response to external stimuli." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 February 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140214075401.htm>.
VIB. (2014, February 14). Brains have switch board to guide behavior in response to external stimuli. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140214075401.htm
VIB. "Brains have switch board to guide behavior in response to external stimuli." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140214075401.htm (accessed November 25, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

From Popcorn To Vending Snacks: FDA Ups Calorie Count Rules

From Popcorn To Vending Snacks: FDA Ups Calorie Count Rules

Newsy (Nov. 25, 2014) — The US FDA is announcing new calorie rules on Tuesday that will require everywhere from theaters to vending machines to include calorie counts. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Daily Serving Of Yogurt Could Reduce Risk Of Type 2 Diabetes

Daily Serving Of Yogurt Could Reduce Risk Of Type 2 Diabetes

Newsy (Nov. 25, 2014) — Need another reason to eat yogurt every day? Researchers now say it could reduce a person's risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Madagascar Working to Contain Plague Outbreak

Madagascar Working to Contain Plague Outbreak

AFP (Nov. 24, 2014) — Madagascar said Monday it is trying to contain an outbreak of plague -- similar to the Black Death that swept Medieval Europe -- that has killed 40 people and is spreading to the capital Antananarivo. Duration: 00:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Are Female Bosses More Likely To Be Depressed?

Are Female Bosses More Likely To Be Depressed?

Newsy (Nov. 24, 2014) — A new study links greater authority with increased depressive symptoms among women in the workplace. 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:

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