The findings, which appear in the current issue of the journal Science, provide new insights into nerve cell communication in the brain that could also play a role in stroke.
Nerve cells of both hemispheres in the brain have to communicate with each other so that the body can perform certain functions. Photo: Philipp Mergenthaler
On the way to the brain, nerve pathways in the human body cross each other. As a result, stimuli are processed in the opposite hemisphere of the brain. For example, if someone touches our right hand, the stimulus is received in the left half of the brain.
However, both halves of the brain have to coordinate their activities. Since some functions, such as language, are strongly pronounced in only one half of the brain, their signals always have to be communicated to the other half. This is even more obvious in daily activities such coordinating the hands or feet, which requires very precise communication between both brain hemispheres. The signals that reach the brain hemispheres are sent via a massive nerve pathway called the corpus callosum from one half of the cerebral cortex to the other.
The research group of Matthew Larkum of the Cluster of Excellence NeuroCure at the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin and Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin investigates the mechanisms in the brain controlling neuron activity in the cerebral cortex. In their current study in cooperation with the University of Bern, the researchers focused on the processing of tactile sensations. To do this Larkum and his team used a range of methods such as intracellular measurements of single nerve cells in the intact brain and various imaging techniques during the sensory stimulation of the hind paw of a rat.
The scientists discovered that stimulating the right and left paws of the rat has a relatively slow, nearly half-second-long sustained inhibitory effect on nerve cell activity. „That is very slow“, notes Larkum. „Normally, signal transmission happens much faster. For that reason, we wanted to find out which circuit of nerves underlies this mechanism and identify the cellular communication pathways,“ he further explains.
The researchers were able to do this with the help of a new technology called optogenetics, which makes it possible to stimulate specific nerves with light. The researchers could show that nerve fibers coming out of the opposite hemisphere activate a special group of local inhibitory nerve cells. These nerve cells in turn activate slow-acting receptors that lead to lower activity in the other nerve cells of the same brain hemisphere.
For stroke research in particular, these findings could be an additional building block in the development of new therapies, as this mechanism plays an important role in the disease. However, communication between the brain hemispheres in the cerebral cortex is crucial not only in stroke damage but also for a range of cognitive abilities, which is why the results of this study could have far-reaching impact.
NeuroCure is a Cluster of Excellence at the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin funded as part of the Excellence Initiative of the German federal and state governments. The focus of this interdisciplinary research alliance is on translating results from basic neuroscience research into clinical application. A better understanding of underlying disease mechanisms contributes to developing effective treatments for neurological diseases such as stroke, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy.
In addition to the Charité, NeuroCure partners include the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Freie Universität Berlin, Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC), Leibniz Institute for Molecular Pharmacology (FMP) and Deutsches Rheuma-Forschungszentrum (DRFZ).
Palmer LM, Schulz JM, Murphy SC, Ledergerber D, Murayama M, Larkum ME (2012) The cellular basis of GABAB-mediated interhemispheric inhibition. Science In press.Kontakt:
Constanze Haase | idw
Drug discovery: First rational strategy to find molecular glue degraders
03.08.2020 | CeMM Forschungszentrum für Molekulare Medizin der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften
Chlamydia: Greedy for Glutamine
03.08.2020 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg
“Core-shell” clusters pave the way for new efficient nanomaterials that make catalysts, magnetic and laser sensors or measuring devices for detecting electromagnetic radiation more efficient.
Whether in innovative high-tech materials, more powerful computer chips, pharmaceuticals or in the field of renewable energies, nanoparticles – smallest...
An international research team with Prof. Cornelia Denz from the Institute of Applied Physics at the University of Münster develop for the first time light fields using caustics that do not change during propagation. With the new method, the physicists cleverly exploit light structures that can be seen in rainbows or when light is transmitted through drinking glasses.
Modern applications as high resolution microsopy or micro- or nanoscale material processing require customized laser beams that do not change during...
Although no life has been detected on the Martian surface, a new study from astrophysicist and research scientist at the Center for Space Science at NYU Abu...
New approach creates synthetic layered magnets with unprecedented level of control over their magnetic properties
The magnetic properties of a chromium halide can be tuned by manipulating the non-magnetic atoms in the material, a team, led by Boston College researchers,...
Scientists of Tomsk Polytechnic University jointly with a team of the V.E. Zuev Institute of Atmospheric Optics of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences have discovered a method to increase the operation range of optical traps also known
Optical tweezers are a device which uses a laser beam to move micron-sized objects such as living cells, proteins, and molecules. In 2018, the American...
23.07.2020 | Event News
21.07.2020 | Event News
07.07.2020 | Event News
03.08.2020 | Information Technology
03.08.2020 | Information Technology
03.08.2020 | Life Sciences