Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Simple mathematcal pattern describes shape of neuron 'jungle'

21.06.2012
Neurons come in an astounding assortment of shapes and sizes, forming a thick inter-connected jungle of cells. Now, UCL neuroscientists have found that there is a simple pattern that describes the tree-like shape of all neurons.

Neurons look remarkably like trees, and connect to other cells with many branches that effectively act like wires in an electrical circuit, carrying impulses that represent sensation, emotion, thought and action.

Over 100 years ago, Santiago Ramon y Cajal, the father of modern neuroscience, sought to systematically describe the shapes of neurons, and was convinced that there must be a unifying principle underlying their diversity.

Cajal proposed that neurons spread out their branches so as to use as little wiring as possible to reach other cells in the network. Reducing the amount of wiring between cells provides additional space to pack more neurons into the brain, and therefore increases its processing power.

New work by UCL neuroscientists, published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, has revisited this century-old hypothesis using modern computational methods. They show that a simple computer program which connects points with as little wiring as possible can produce tree-like shapes which are indistinguishable from real neurons - and also happen to be very beautiful. They also show that the shape of neurons follows a simple mathematical relationship called a power law.

Power laws have been shown to be common across the natural world, and often point to simple rules underlying complex structures. Dr Herman Cuntz (UCL Wolfson Institute for Biomedical Research) and colleagues find that the power law holds true for many types of neurons gathered from across the animal kingdom, providing strong evidence for Ramon y Cajal's general principle.

The UCL team further tested the theory by examining neurons in the olfactory bulb, a part of the brain where new brain cells are constantly being formed. These neurons grow and form new connections even in the adult brain, and therefore provide a unique window into the rules behind the development of neural trees in a mature neural circuit.

The team analysed the change in shape of the newborn olfactory neurons over several days, and found that the growth of these neurons also follow the power law, providing further evidence to support the theory.

Dr Hermann Cuntz said: "The ultimate goal of neuroscience is to understand how the impenetrable neural jungle can give rise to the complexity of behaviour.

"Our findings confirm Cajal's original far-reaching insight that there is a simple pattern behind the circuitry, and provides hope that neuroscientists will someday be able to see the forest for the trees."

Clare Ryan | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ucl.ac.uk

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Selectively Reactivating Nerve Cells to Retrieve a Memory
01.06.2020 | Universität Heidelberg

nachricht CeMM study reveals how a master regulator of gene transcription operates
01.06.2020 | CeMM Forschungszentrum für Molekulare Medizin der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Biotechnology: Triggered by light, a novel way to switch on an enzyme

In living cells, enzymes drive biochemical metabolic processes enabling reactions to take place efficiently. It is this very ability which allows them to be used as catalysts in biotechnology, for example to create chemical products such as pharmaceutics. Researchers now identified an enzyme that, when illuminated with blue light, becomes catalytically active and initiates a reaction that was previously unknown in enzymatics. The study was published in "Nature Communications".

Enzymes: they are the central drivers for biochemical metabolic processes in every living cell, enabling reactions to take place efficiently. It is this very...

Im Focus: New double-contrast technique picks up small tumors on MRI

Early detection of tumors is extremely important in treating cancer. A new technique developed by researchers at the University of California, Davis offers a significant advance in using magnetic resonance imaging to pick out even very small tumors from normal tissue. The work is published May 25 in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

researchers at the University of California, Davis offers a significant advance in using magnetic resonance imaging to pick out even very small tumors from...

Im Focus: I-call - When microimplants communicate with each other / Innovation driver digitization - "Smart Health“

Microelectronics as a key technology enables numerous innovations in the field of intelligent medical technology. The Fraunhofer Institute for Biomedical Engineering IBMT coordinates the BMBF cooperative project "I-call" realizing the first electronic system for ultrasound-based, safe and interference-resistant data transmission between implants in the human body.

When microelectronic systems are used for medical applications, they have to meet high requirements in terms of biocompatibility, reliability, energy...

Im Focus: When predictions of theoretical chemists become reality

Thomas Heine, Professor of Theoretical Chemistry at TU Dresden, together with his team, first predicted a topological 2D polymer in 2019. Only one year later, an international team led by Italian researchers was able to synthesize these materials and experimentally prove their topological properties. For the renowned journal Nature Materials, this was the occasion to invite Thomas Heine to a News and Views article, which was published this week. Under the title "Making 2D Topological Polymers a reality" Prof. Heine describes how his theory became a reality.

Ultrathin materials are extremely interesting as building blocks for next generation nano electronic devices, as it is much easier to make circuits and other...

Im Focus: Rolling into the deep

Scientists took a leukocyte as the blueprint and developed a microrobot that has the size, shape and moving capabilities of a white blood cell. Simulating a blood vessel in a laboratory setting, they succeeded in magnetically navigating the ball-shaped microroller through this dynamic and dense environment. The drug-delivery vehicle withstood the simulated blood flow, pushing the developments in targeted drug delivery a step further: inside the body, there is no better access route to all tissues and organs than the circulatory system. A robot that could actually travel through this finely woven web would revolutionize the minimally-invasive treatment of illnesses.

A team of scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems (MPI-IS) in Stuttgart invented a tiny microrobot that resembles a white blood cell...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Dresden Nexus Conference 2020: Same Time, Virtual Format, Registration Opened

19.05.2020 | Event News

Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium AWK'21 will take place on June 10 and 11, 2021

07.04.2020 | Event News

International Coral Reef Symposium in Bremen Postponed by a Year

06.04.2020 | Event News

 
Latest News

Black nitrogen: Bayreuth researchers discover new high-pressure material and solve a puzzle of the periodic table

29.05.2020 | Materials Sciences

Argonne researchers create active material out of microscopic spinning particles

29.05.2020 | Materials Sciences

Smart windows that self-illuminate on rainy days

29.05.2020 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>