Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

A Brake in the Head: German researchers gain new insights into the working of the brain

19.09.2013
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.


A microscopic view of the entorhinal cortex. The bright spots are the bodies of neurons.
Source: DZNE/Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Beed/Schmitz

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.”

Original publication
Inhibitory gradient along the dorso-ventral axis in the medial entorhinal cortex

Prateep Beed, Anja Gundlfinger et al., Neuron, DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2013.06.038

Contact
Prof. Dietmar Schmitz
Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin
DZNE, Berlin
+49 30/450-539054
dietmar.schmitz@dzne.de
Dr. Dirk Förger
Head, Press and Public Relations
DZNE
+49 (0) 228 / 43302-260
presse(at)dzne.de

Daniel Bayer | idw
Further information:
http://www.dzne.de/en/about-us/public-relations/meldungen/2013/press-release-no-28.html

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Researchers develop eco-friendly, 4-in-1 catalyst
25.04.2017 | Brown University

nachricht Transfecting cells gently – the LZH presents a GNOME prototype at the Labvolution 2017
25.04.2017 | Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V.

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA's Fermi catches gamma-ray flashes from tropical storms

25.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Researchers invent process to make sustainable rubber, plastics

25.04.2017 | Materials Sciences

Transfecting cells gently – the LZH presents a GNOME prototype at the Labvolution 2017

25.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>