The finding is reported in Nature Neuroscience, online May 16, and highlighted in the magazine's "news and views" section.
Simon Alford, University of Illinois at Chicago professor of biological sciences and the article's corresponding author, said the role of a neurotransmitter associated with this parallel pathway may also suggest new research directions for treating Parkinson's disease.
Alford, along with his former graduate student and lead author Roy Smetana, now a University of Pittsburgh resident in psychiatry, worked with Université de Montréal and Université de Québec à Montréal neurobiologist Réjean Dubuc and his post-doctoral researcher Laurent Juvin in trying to sort out how the neurotransmitter analog muscarine modifies sensory information going to the brain.
Their work determined that muscarine stimulated neural activity, leading to locomotion in the laboratory lampreys.
The group focused its attention on a collection of brainstem neurons that tell the spinal cord to generate motor output that enables walking and other locomotion.
"We started looking at this group of neurons, which in the lamprey are conveniently very large, so they're easy to plant electrodes and record from," said Alford. "We discovered the muscarinic excitation was not working on these cells, but on a previously unknown group of cells within the brainstem."
What's more, these newly discovered brainstem neurons showed what Alford called a "very odd response" to the muscarine.
"Instead of just turning on -- like a synapse turns on a neuron and makes it fire -- when you put muscarine on these cells, they turn on and stay on" for a minute or longer which he said for a neurological reaction can be a very long time.
The researchers discovered the actual brain neurotransmitter that activates muscarine receptors -- another chemical, acetylcholine -- sends a signal to these newly discovered brainstem neurons, switching them on for the lengthy minute or so durations.
Alford said the finding opens up new insights into animal locomotion.
"It's a system for turning on your locomotor system and making you walk or run in a very coordinated, straight-line fashion sustaining locomotion for a considerable time," he said. "This simply was not known to exist before we discovered it."
The role of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine may ultimately suggest new Parkinson's disease treatments. While a key Parkinson's symptom is tremor, an advanced stage symptom is the inability to start a movement, such as walking. Symptoms associated with Parkinson's can be helped by reducing acetylcholine-mediated neurotransmission in the brain, but little work has focused on brainstem muscarine receptors in this disease.
"This may be a backdoor finding into a secondary effect of Parkinson's disease that's not well studied because most research emphasis has been on dopamine and the basal ganglia, a different neurotransmitter and region of the brain," Alford said.
Major funding for the research came from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.
Paul Francuch | EurekAlert!
One gene closer to regenerative therapy for muscular disorders
01.06.2017 | Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center
The gut microbiota plays a key role in treatment with classic diabetes medication
01.06.2017 | University of Gothenburg
Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.
Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...
Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.
As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...
Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.
With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...
Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine
Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...
Germany counts high-precision manufacturing processes among its advantages as a location. It’s not just the aerospace and automotive industries that require almost waste-free, high-precision manufacturing to provide an efficient way of testing the shape and orientation tolerances of products. Since current inline measurement technology not yet provides the required accuracy, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is collaborating with four renowned industry partners in the INSPIRE project to develop inline sensors with a new accuracy class. Funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), the project is scheduled to run until the end of 2019.
New Manufacturing Technologies for New Products
19.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
22.06.2017 | Life Sciences
22.06.2017 | Materials Sciences
22.06.2017 | Materials Sciences