Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Brain "avalanches" may help store memories

27.01.2005


Neurochemicals might someday improve life for people with memory problems



Meeting a friend you haven’t seen in years brings on a sudden surge of pleasant memories. You might even call it an avalanche.

Recent studies suggest that avalanches in your brain could actually help you to store memories. Last year, scientists at the National Institutes of Health placed slices of rat brain tissue on a microelectrode array and found that the brain cells activated each other in cascades called "neuronal avalanches."


New computer models now suggest that these brain avalanches may be optimal for information storage. If so, certain neurochemical treatments might someday improve life for people with memory problems. A report of this work will be published Feb. 4 in the journal Physical Review Letters. "When most people think of an avalanche, they imagine something huge," said biophysicist John Beggs, now a professor in the Biocomplexity Institute at Indiana University Bloomington, who helped perform the NIH experiments. "But avalanches come in all sizes, and the smaller ones are most common. That’s just what we found in the brain cells."

An avalanche roaring down a mountainside may seem to be wildly out of control, but actually it is governed by certain equations. These same equations also govern such seemingly unrelated events as forest fires and earthquakes -- as well as some neural activity in the brain, Beggs said. All are examples of phenomena that can be studied with the new science of complexity, which deals with all kinds of complex systems ranging from living cells to national economies.

Biocomplexity is a cross-disciplinary field involving physics, chemistry, computer science, mathematics and the life sciences. A description of the IU Biocomplexity Institute, headquartered in IU Bloomington’s Department of Physics, is available at http://www.indiana.edu/~iufcs/issue7/solving.shtml.

To find out the possible benefits of brain avalanches, Beggs and IU senior Clay Haldeman simulated the spreading activity of brain cells in a computer model. When the activity was tuned to mimic the avalanches seen in brain tissue, a large number of stable activity patterns appeared. Stable activity patterns are thought to be important for memory, since they have been recorded in the brains of monkeys and rats after they perform memory tasks, Beggs said. "The fact that the most stable activity patterns appeared when the network of brain cells was also producing avalanches hints that the brain may actually use avalanches to store information," Beggs said.

"This work might ultimately help human memory," he explained. "If our computer simulations apply to networks of human brain cells, then it would be desirable to have your brain in a state where it naturally produces avalanches. In the laboratory, we can apply neurochemicals to defective networks of rat brain cells, gently easing them into a state where avalanches occur. These chemicals suggest treatments that might someday improve information storage in people with memory problems."

This research was funded by the National Science Foundation.

Hal Kibbey | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.indiana.edu
http://www.indiana.edu/~iufcs/issue7/solving.shtml

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 >>>