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 A novel socio-ecological approach helps identifying suitable wolf habitats
17.02.2017 | Universität Zürich

nachricht New, ultra-flexible probes form reliable, scar-free integration with the brain
16.02.2017 | University of Texas at Austin

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Switched-on DNA

20.02.2017 | Materials Sciences

Second cause of hidden hearing loss identified

20.02.2017 | Health and Medicine

Prospect for more effective treatment of nerve pain

20.02.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>