Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

On automatic pilot

31.01.2007
Walking while holding a conversation and writing a letter whilst thinking about its content: we perform many actions without even thinking about them. This is possible due to the cerebellum.

It regulates the automation of our movements and as a result the cerebrum can perform other tasks. However, how the cerebellum performs this task is not clear. Dutch researcher Angelique Pijpers reconstructed a part of cerebellar functioning in rats and investigated how it mediates in the control of hind limb muscles. Such research might in future provide a better understanding of how the elderly move.

Pijpers and her colleagues investigated which processes took place inside and outside of the cerebellum: how does it channel information and process this into a signal to the muscles? Subsequently they investigated which parts of the cerebellum are involved in regulating the activity of a single muscle. Furthermore, they examined the consequences of inactivation of one or more parts of the cerebellum on the functioning of this muscle.

Nerve cells in the cerebellum receive two types of signals. Through the climbing fibres, signals from a specific structure in the brain stem are transmitted to Purkinje cells located in the cerebellar cortex. Mossy fibres transmit signals from various parts of the central nervous system to the granule cells of the cerebellar cortex.

Pijpers reconstructed the modular anatomy of the cerebellum by injecting small quantities of traceable substances. This allowed mapping of different 'stations' of the information pathway. The reconstruction revealed that the cerebellum is organised into a number of modules or connections aligned in parallel. Up until now it had been thought that the climbing fibre and mossy fibre systems were organised in completely different manners. However, according to Pijpers they also exhibit similarities.

By injecting a viral tracer agent in various muscles, the researcher traced the cerebellar modules involved in the control of a single muscle. She then inactivated one of the modules by injecting a neurotoxin. The rat's ability to walk was scarcely altered but there was a strong decrease in its ability to respond quickly to obstacles in a reflexive manner. This revealed that specific modules of the cerebellum mainly regulate reflex functions during walking and match these to the situation.

Consequences for the elderly

Pijpers' research opens up new possibilities for further research into the role of the cerebellum in the control of movements. Results from follow-up studies could be important for research into how the elderly move. For example, the increased risk of falls in the elderly is often associated with physical limitations. According to Pijpers this could also be a linked to cerebellar functioning, since certain parts of the cerebellum appear to decrease as we get older.

Angelique Pijpers' research was funded by NWO.

Dr Angelique Pijpers | alfa
Further information:
http://www.nwo.nl/nwohome.nsf/pages/NWOA_6X6CC4_Eng

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Routing gene therapy directly into the brain
07.12.2017 | Boston Children's Hospital

nachricht New Hope for Cancer Therapies: Targeted Monitoring may help Improve Tumor Treatment
01.12.2017 | Berliner Institut für Gesundheitsforschung / Berlin Institute of Health (BIH)

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: Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation

MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.

Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...

Im Focus: Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

Detailed calculations show water cloaks are feasible with today's technology

Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...

Im Focus: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

Im Focus: Successful Mechanical Testing of Nanowires

With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong

Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation

12.12.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Multi-year submarine-canyon study challenges textbook theories about turbidity currents

12.12.2017 | Earth Sciences

Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

12.12.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>