The study, published today (Sunday) in Nature and carried out by researchers based at the Wolfson Institute for Biomedical Research at UCL, the MRC Laboratory for Molecular Biology in Cambridge and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, examined neurons in areas of the mouse brain which are responsible for processing visual input from the eyes.
The scientists achieved an important breakthrough: they succeeded in making incredibly challenging electrical and optical recordings directly from the tiny dendrites of neurons in the intact brain while the brain was processing visual information.
These recordings revealed that visual stimulation produces specific electrical signals in the dendrites – bursts of spikes – which are tuned to the properties of the visual stimulus.
The results challenge the widely held view that this kind of computation is achieved only by large numbers of neurons working together, and demonstrate how the basic components of the brain are exceptionally powerful computing devices in their own right.
Senior author Professor Michael Hausser commented: "This work shows that dendrites, long thought to simply 'funnel' incoming signals towards the soma, instead play a key role in sorting and interpreting the enormous barrage of inputs received by the neuron. Dendrites thus act as miniature computing devices for detecting and amplifying specific types of input.
"This new property of dendrites adds an important new element to the "toolkit" for computation in the brain. This kind of dendritic processing is likely to be widespread across many brain areas and indeed many different animal species, including humans."
Funding for this study was provided by the Gatsby Charitable Foundation, the Wellcome Trust, and the European Research Council, as well as the Human Frontier Science Program, the Klingenstein Foundation, Helen Lyng White, the Royal Society, and the Medical Research Council.
Notes to Editors
1. For more information, please contact David Weston in the UCL Press Office, T: +44 (0) 203 108 3844, out-of-hours: 07917 271 364, Email: email@example.com
2. To speak to the researcher: Prof Michael Hausser, firstname.lastname@example.org mobile: 07786 061 069. Website: http://www.dendrites.org/
3. Images are available from the UCL Press Office.
4. The paper 'Dendritic spikes enhance stimulus selectivity in cortical neurons in vivo' is published in Nature, embargoed until 18.00 UK Time, Sunday 27 October 2013. Journalists requiring advance copies of the paper should contact the Nature press office.
About UCL (University College London)
Founded in 1826, UCL was the first English university established after Oxford and Cambridge, the first to admit students regardless of race, class, religion or gender and the first to provide systematic teaching of law, architecture and medicine.
We are among the world's top universities, as reflected by our performance in a range of international rankings and tables. According to the Thomson Scientific Citation Index, UCL is the second most highly cited European university and the 15th most highly cited in the world.
UCL has nearly 25,000 students from 150 countries and more than 9,000 employees, of whom one third are from outside the UK. The university is based in Bloomsbury in the heart of London, but also has two international campuses – UCL Australia and UCL Qatar. Our annual income is more than £800 million.
David Weston | Source: EurekAlert!
Further information: www.ucl.ac.uk
More articles from Studies and Analyses:
Low vitamin B12 levels increase the risk of fractures in older men
10.12.2013 | University of Gothenburg
Name Americanization Pays, Study Finds
10.12.2013 | Institut zur Zukunft der Arbeit
Researchers from Brown University and the University of Hawaii have found some mineralogical surprises in the Moon's largest impact crater.
Data from the Moon Mineralogy Mapper that flew aboard India's Chandrayaan-1 lunar orbiter shows a diverse mineralogy in the subsurface of the giant South Pole Aitken basin.
The differing mineral signatures could be reflective of the minerals dredged up at the time of the giant impact 4 billion years ago, ...
In power electronics systems bonded connections create the central electrical connections between adjoining surfaces.
The quality of these bonded connections is one of the main factors that determines the reliability and availability of drive systems in electric vehicles, and hence constitutes a major design challenge for German auto manufacturers aiming to electrify their vehicles.
Now the partners participating in the RoBE (Robust Bonds in ...
International team of scientists develops new feedback method for optimizing the laser pulse shapes used in the control of chemical reactions
In many ways, traditional chemical synthesis is similar to cooking. To alter the final product, you can change the ingredients or their ratio, change the method of mixing ingredients, or change the temperature or pressure of the environment of the ingredients.
Like an accomplished chef, chemists have become very skilled ...
A genetic defect protects mice from infection with influenza viruses
A new study published in the scientific journal PLOS Pathogens points out that mice lacking a protein called Tmprss2 are no longer affected by certain flu viruses.
The discovery was made by researchers from the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI) in Braunschweig in collaboration with colleagues from Göttingen and ...
The Light: Global study gets underway with online user survey
Light has a fundamental impact on our sense of well-being and performance. In cooperation with Zumtobel, a supplier of lighting solutions, Fraunhofer IAO has launched a global user survey of lighting quality in offices. The objective is to identify the best lighting conditions for a variety of spaces and lighting ...
10.12.2013 | Physics and Astronomy
10.12.2013 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
10.12.2013 | Power and Electrical Engineering
10.12.2013 | Event News
05.12.2013 | Event News
04.12.2013 | Event News