Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Embedded nerve cells hold the key to brain activity

24.07.2013
Scientists from Freiburg propose new approach to unravel the function of the human brain

Understanding complex systems such as the brain of mammals: Dr. Arvind Kumar and colleagues from the Bernstein Center and the Cluster of Excellence BrainLinks-BrainTools at the University of Freiburg present a new view on brain function.


For a network of five elements, the combinations to be tested to ascertain each unit’s effect are already 52 (shown as orbiting symbols). Hence, this traditional way to investigate brain function is useless in most cases (Image: Grah/BrainLinks-BrainTools, symbols: Mate2code, Creative Commons).

Much of today’s brain research follows an approach that has been in use for decades: An area of the brain is either silenced of augmented in its activity, and the resulting effects in other parts of the brain – or in the whole organ – are measured. While this approach is very successful in understanding how the brain processes input from our senses, a team of scientists from Freiburg argues that it is too simple when trying to understand other brain regions. The team presents their findings in the current issue of the journal “Trends in Neuroscience”.

“The traditional approach reduces the brain’s enormous complexity by defining relatively arbitrary subunits”, Kumar and his colleagues explain. For this abstraction to work, information must flow in one direction only. But this is not what happens in the brain, which is a complex network of smaller sub-networks that allows feedback to preceding units. Even for a network of ten units, unraveling each unit’s function would require more than 100,000 individual experimental setups – an impossible task.

“Perhaps, the main question in understanding the brain is not so much how a particular area affects the activity of others, but rather how exactly brain activity can be changed from one state to another”, Kumar states. For this purpose, the neuroscientists introduced a new quality of nerve cells: their embeddedness. This is a measure for the role that a neuron plays within a network. It combines data about where a nerve cell receives information from, where it connects to, and how much it contributes to the whole network. The researchers combine this idea with the insight that already a limited number of elements within a network can control its overall behavior. Concentrating on these ‘driving neurons’ promises that even manipulating only a small number of nerve cells will provide new insight about the dynamics within the whole network. The team from Freiburg hopes that this will open new perspectives on understanding the brain, its function – and dysfunction.

Original publication:
Arvind Kumar, Ioannis Vlachos, Ad Aertsen, Clemens Boucsein (2013) Challenges of understanding brain function by selective modulation of neuronal subpopulations. Trends in Neuroscience, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tins.2013.06.005
Contact:
Dr. Gunnar Grah
Science Communicator, BrainLinks-BrainTools
University of Freiburg
Phone: +49 (0)761 / 203 – 67722
Fax: +49 (0)761 / 203 – 9559
E-Mail: grah@brainlinks-braintools.uni-freiburg.de

Dr. Gunnar Grah | University of Freiburg
Further information:
http://www.uni-freiburg.de

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Could this protein protect people against coronary artery disease?
17.11.2017 | University of North Carolina Health Care

nachricht Microbial resident enables beetles to feed on a leafy diet
17.11.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für chemische Ökologie

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: A “cosmic snake” reveals the structure of remote galaxies

The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.

Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...

Im Focus: Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ

Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.

That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...

Im Focus: Novel Nano-CT device creates high-resolution 3D-X-rays of tiny velvet worm legs

Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.

During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....

Im Focus: Researchers Develop Data Bus for Quantum Computer

The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.

Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...

Im Focus: Wrinkles give heat a jolt in pillared graphene

Rice University researchers test 3-D carbon nanostructures' thermal transport abilities

Pillared graphene would transfer heat better if the theoretical material had a few asymmetric junctions that caused wrinkles, according to Rice University...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Ecology Across Borders: International conference brings together 1,500 ecologists

15.11.2017 | Event News

Road into laboratory: Users discuss biaxial fatigue-testing for car and truck wheel

15.11.2017 | Event News

#Berlin5GWeek: The right network for Industry 4.0

30.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA detects solar flare pulses at Sun and Earth

17.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

NIST scientists discover how to switch liver cancer cell growth from 2-D to 3-D structures

17.11.2017 | Health and Medicine

The importance of biodiversity in forests could increase due to climate change

17.11.2017 | Studies and Analyses

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>