Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Rewiring the mammalian brain -- neurons make fickle friends

08.08.2006
The brain adapts to new experience by unleashing a burst of new neuronal connections, and only the fittest survive.

A new discovery from the Brain Mind Institute of the EPFL (Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne) shows that the brain rewires itself following an experience. The research further shows that this process of creation, testing, and reconfiguring of brain circuits takes place on a scale of just hours, suggesting that the brain is evolving considerably even during the course of a single day.

Scientists know that the strength of the connections between neurons changes to shape memories. They also know that the developing brain has a high level of plasticity as neurons forge connections with other neurons. This new research, published in the August 7, 2006 early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, goes further, investigating how neurons choose their connections with neighboring neurons. Researchers Henry Markram and Jean-Vincent Le Bé found that connections between neurons switch rapidly on and off, leading to a form of adaptive rewiring in which the brain is engaged in a continuous process of changing, strengthening and pruning its circuitry.

Studying neuron clusters from the neocortex of neonatal rats, Markram and Le Bé found that instead of growing preferentially towards specific receivers, neurons actually have no particular affinity for any other neuron, but instead remain in a state of perpetual readiness to reconfigure circuits. They found that over the course of just a few hours, connections are formed and re-formed many times.

“The circuitry of the brain is like a social network where neurons are like people, directly linked to only a few other people,” explains Markram. “This finding indicates that the brain is constantly switching alliances and linking with new circles of “friends” to better process information.”

In their samples, the rewiring process was occurring continuously at a slow pace. By exciting the sample with glutamate, they found that the rate increased markedly. This suggests that with a strong new experience, the brain accelerates its reconfiguration process, allowing new connections to be made, tested, and strengthened, and weaker ones removed so that the brain is quickly better adapted to the new situation.

“This continual rewiring of the microcircuitry of the brain is like a Darwinian evolutionary process,” notes Markram, “where a new experience triggers a burst of new connections between neurons, and only the fittest connections survive.”

Markram emphasizes that these findings may have important implications for brain research, even at a practical level. “This discovery opens up a whole new frontier for researchers as we now try to understand the evolutionary process that sets the brain on a particular course. Perhaps it could even reveal ways to steer the brain around particular circuitry pathologies such as epilepsy.”

Mary Parlange | alfa
Further information:
http://www.epfl.ch

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Pollen taxi for bacteria
18.07.2018 | Technische Universität München

nachricht Biological signalling processes in intelligent materials
18.07.2018 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: First evidence on the source of extragalactic particles

For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.

To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...

Im Focus: Magnetic vortices: Two independent magnetic skyrmion phases discovered in a single material

For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.

Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...

Im Focus: Breaking the bond: To take part or not?

Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.

A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...

Im Focus: New 2D Spectroscopy Methods

Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.

"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....

Im Focus: Chemical reactions in the light of ultrashort X-ray pulses from free-electron lasers

Ultra-short, high-intensity X-ray flashes open the door to the foundations of chemical reactions. Free-electron lasers generate these kinds of pulses, but there is a catch: the pulses vary in duration and energy. An international research team has now presented a solution: Using a ring of 16 detectors and a circularly polarized laser beam, they can determine both factors with attosecond accuracy.

Free-electron lasers (FELs) generate extremely short and intense X-ray flashes. Researchers can use these flashes to resolve structures with diameters on the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP: Fine Tuning for Surfaces

12.07.2018 | Event News

11th European Wood-based Panel Symposium 2018: Meeting point for the wood-based materials industry

03.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Pollen taxi for bacteria

18.07.2018 | Life Sciences

Biological signalling processes in intelligent materials

18.07.2018 | Life Sciences

Study suggests buried Internet infrastructure at risk as sea levels rise

18.07.2018 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>