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 Newly designed molecule binds nitrogen
23.02.2018 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

nachricht Atomic Design by Water
23.02.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Eisenforschung GmbH

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Attoseconds break into atomic interior

A newly developed laser technology has enabled physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (jointly run by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics) to generate attosecond bursts of high-energy photons of unprecedented intensity. This has made it possible to observe the interaction of multiple photons in a single such pulse with electrons in the inner orbital shell of an atom.

In order to observe the ultrafast electron motion in the inner shells of atoms with short light pulses, the pulses must not only be ultrashort, but very...

Im Focus: Good vibrations feel the force

A group of researchers led by Andrea Cavalleri at the Max Planck Institute for Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) in Hamburg has demonstrated a new method enabling precise measurements of the interatomic forces that hold crystalline solids together. The paper Probing the Interatomic Potential of Solids by Strong-Field Nonlinear Phononics, published online in Nature, explains how a terahertz-frequency laser pulse can drive very large deformations of the crystal.

By measuring the highly unusual atomic trajectories under extreme electromagnetic transients, the MPSD group could reconstruct how rigid the atomic bonds are...

Im Focus: Developing reliable quantum computers

International research team makes important step on the path to solving certification problems

Quantum computers may one day solve algorithmic problems which even the biggest supercomputers today can’t manage. But how do you test a quantum computer to...

Im Focus: In best circles: First integrated circuit from self-assembled polymer

For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.

In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...

Im Focus: Demonstration of a single molecule piezoelectric effect

Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale

Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

2nd International Conference on High Temperature Shape Memory Alloys (HTSMAs)

15.02.2018 | Event News

Aachen DC Grid Summit 2018

13.02.2018 | Event News

How Global Climate Policy Can Learn from the Energy Transition

12.02.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Basque researchers turn light upside down

23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Finnish research group discovers a new immune system regulator

23.02.2018 | Health and Medicine

Attoseconds break into atomic interior

23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>