Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Study provides new insights into brain organisation

02.08.2006
Scientists have provided new insights into how the brain is organised - knowledge which could eventually inform diagnosis of and treatments for conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and autism.

A study by Newcastle University, UK, and the International University Bremen, Germany, debunked a prevailing theory that the nervous system should have mainly very short nerve fibre connections between nerve cells, or neurons, to function at its most effective.

Instead the study, which carried out a sophisticated computer analysis of public databases containing detailed information of worldwide anatomical studies on primate and worm brains, found that long nerve fibre connections were just as vital to overall brain function as short ones.

Much of what we know about the human brain derives from neuroscience research on primates, which are used because they have have experienced similar evolutionary stages to humans.

Brain scans of Alzheimer’s patients and people with autism have shown that they are lacking certain long-distance neural interactions, although experts have yet to discover their specific purpose.

The new study, published in the academic journal PLoS Computational Biology, found that long fibres are important because they can send messages quickly over a longer distance compared with if the same message was sent over the same distance via lots of short fibres. It also found that long fibres are more reliable for transmission of messages over longer distances.

“You can draw parallels with a train journey from Newcastle to London,” said lead researcher, Dr Marcus Kaiser, of Newcastle University’s School of Computing Science and the University’s Institute of Neuroscience.

“For example, you would get to London much more quickly and easily if you took a direct train there. However, if you had to make the journey via Durham, Leeds and Stevenage, changing trains each time, then it will take you longer to get there, and there is the possibility you would miss a connection at some point. It’s the same in the human brain.”

The computer programme, run over several days, took information about the length of nerve fibres in the primate brain and neuronal connections called axons in the brain of a species of worm known as Caenorhabditis elegans. It then tested if the total length of fibres could be reduced, by testing billions of different position arrangements. Indeed, wiring lengths could be reduced by up to 50% owing to the fact that neural systems have surprisingly many long-distance connections.

Co-researcher Dr Claus Hilgetag, an associate professor with International University Bremen’s School of Engineering and Science, said: “Many people have suggested that the brain is like a computer and that for optimum effectiveness it should have mainly short connections between the nerve cells. Our research suggests that a combination of different lengths of neural projections is essential.

“It is particularly interesting that we made the same observations in both the primate and the worm as their brains are very different in terms of shape and size.”

Although it is too early for the research to have direct clinical applications, the researchers suggest that it may eventually contribute towards insights into the diagnosis and possibly the treatment of patients with Alzheimer’s and autism if more information about neural networks - and specifically what the long and short nerve fibres do in the brain - is garnered.

One potential development could be a predictive test for the conditions, which examines and analyses a patient’s brain organisation, aiding diagnosis and possibly showing how the condition may develop over the coming years.

The study is the most comprehensive yet to look at the spatial organisation of the nervous system in primates and worms.

Claire Jordan | alfa
Further information:
http://www.ncl.ac.uk

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Oxygen can wake up dormant bacteria for antibiotic attacks
08.12.2016 | Penn State

nachricht NTU scientists build new ultrasound device using 3-D printing technology
07.12.2016 | Nanyang Technological University

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Significantly more productivity in USP lasers

In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.

Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Closing the carbon loop

08.12.2016 | Life Sciences

Applicability of dynamic facilitation theory to binary hard disk systems

08.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

Scientists track chemical and structural evolution of catalytic nanoparticles in 3-D

08.12.2016 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>