Forum für Wissenschaft, Industrie und Wirtschaft

Hauptsponsoren:     3M 
Datenbankrecherche:

 

After 100 Years, Understanding the Electrical Role of Dendritic Spines

06.12.2012
It’s the least understood organ in the human body: the brain, a massive network of electrically excitable neurons, all communicating with one another via receptors on their tree-like dendrites. Somehow these cells work together to enable great feats of human learning and memory. But how?
Researchers know dendritic spines play a vital role. These tiny membranous structures protrude from dendrites’ branches; spread across the entire dendritic tree, the spines on one neuron collect signals from an average of 1,000 others. But more than a century after they were discovered, their function still remains only partially understood.

A Northwestern University researcher, working in collaboration with scientists at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Janelia Farm Research Campus, has recently added an important piece of the puzzle of how neurons “talk” to one another. The researchers have demonstrated that spines serve as electrical compartments in the neuron, isolating and amplifying electrical signals received at the synapses, the sites at which neurons connect to one another.

The key to this discovery is the result of innovative experiments at the Janelia Farm Research Campus and computer simulations performed at Northwestern University that can measure electrical responses on spines throughout the dendrites.

A paper about the findings, “Synaptic Amplification by Dendritic Spines Enhances Input Cooperatively,” was published November 22 in the journal Nature.

“This research conclusively shows that dendritic spines respond to and process synaptic inputs not just chemically, but also electrically,” said William Kath, professor of engineering sciences and applied mathematics at Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering, professor of neurobiology at the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, and one of the paper’s authors.

Dendritic spines come in a variety of shapes, but typically consist of a bulbous spine head at the end of a thin tube, or neck. Each spine head contains one or more synapses and is located in very close proximity to an axon coming from another neuron.

Scientists have gained insight into the chemical properties of dendritic spines: receptors on their surface are known to respond to a number of neurotransmitters, such as glutamate and glycine, released by other neurons. But because of the spines’ incredibly small size — roughly 1/100 the diameter of a human hair — their electrical properties have been harder to study

In this study, researchers at the HHMI Janelia Farm Research Campus used three experimental techniques to assess the electrical properties of dendritic spines in rats’ hippocampi, a part of the brain that plays an important role in memory and spatial navigation. First, the researchers used two miniature electrodes to administer current and measure its voltage response at different sites throughout the dendrites.

They also used a technique called “glutamate uncaging,” a process that involves releasing glutamate, an excitatory neurotransmitter, to evoke electrical responses from specific synapses, as if the synapse had just received a signal from a neighboring neuron. A third process utilized a calcium-sensitive dye — calcium is a chemical indicator of a synaptic event — injected into the neuron to provide an optical representation of voltage changes within the spine.

At Northwestern, researchers used computational models of real neurons — reconstructed from the same type of rat neurons — to build a 3D representation of the neuron with accurate information about each dendrites’ placement, diameter, and electrical properties. The computer simulations, in concert with the experiments, indicated that spines’ electrical resistance is consistent throughout the dendrites, regardless of where on the dendritic tree they are located.

While much research is still needed to gain a full understanding of the brain, knowledge about spines’ electrical processing could lead to advances in the treatment of diseases like Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s diseases.

“The brain is much more complicated than any computer we’ve ever built, and understanding how it works could lead to advances not just in medicine, but in areas we haven’t considered yet,” Kath said. “We could learn how to process information in ways we can only guess at now.”

Other authors of the paper, all of HHMI Janelia Farm Research Campus, include lead author Mark T. Harnett, Judit K. Makara, Nelson Spruston (formerly of Northwestern University), and Jeffrey C. Magee, the senior author on the paper.

Megan Fellman | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.northwestern.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht WPI team grows heart tissue on spinach leaves
23.03.2017 | Worcester Polytechnic Institute

nachricht Inactivate vaccines faster and more effectively using electron beams
23.03.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Organische Elektronik, Elektronenstrahl- und Plasmatechnik FEP

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Fliegende Intensivstationen: Ultraschallgeräte in Rettungshubschraubern können Leben retten

Etwa 21 Millionen Menschen treffen jährlich in deutschen Notaufnahmen ein. Im Kampf zwischen Leben und Tod zählt für diese Patienten jede Minute. Wenn sie schon kurz nach dem Unfall zielgerichtet behandelt werden können, verbessern sich ihre Überlebenschancen erheblich. Damit Notfallmediziner in solchen Fällen schnell die richtige Diagnose stellen können, kommen in den Rettungshubschraubern der DRF Luftrettung und zunehmend auch in Notarzteinsatzfahrzeugen mobile Ultraschallgeräte zum Einsatz. Experten der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Ultraschall in der Medizin e.V. (DEGUM) schulen die Notärzte und Rettungsassistenten.

Mit mobilen Ultraschallgeräten können Notärzte beispielsweise innere Blutungen direkt am Unfallort identifizieren und sie bei Bedarf auch für Untersuchungen im...

Im Focus: Gigantische Magnetfelder im Universum

Astronomen aus Bonn und Tautenburg in Thüringen beobachteten mit dem 100-m-Radioteleskop Effelsberg Galaxienhaufen, das sind Ansammlungen von Sternsystemen, heißem Gas und geladenen Teilchen. An den Rändern dieser Galaxienhaufen fanden sie außergewöhnlich geordnete Magnetfelder, die sich über viele Millionen Lichtjahre erstrecken. Sie stellen die größten bekannten Magnetfelder im Universum dar.

Die Ergebnisse werden am 22. März in der Fachzeitschrift „Astronomy & Astrophysics“ veröffentlicht.

Galaxienhaufen sind die größten gravitativ gebundenen Strukturen im Universum, mit einer Ausdehnung von etwa zehn Millionen Lichtjahren. Im Vergleich dazu ist...

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Auf der Spur des linearen Ubiquitins

Eine neue Methode ermöglicht es, den Geheimcode linearer Ubiquitin-Ketten zu entschlüsseln. Forscher der Goethe-Universität berichten darüber in der aktuellen Ausgabe von "nature methods", zusammen mit Partnern der Universität Tübingen, der Queen Mary University und des Francis Crick Institute in London.

Ubiquitin ist ein kleines Molekül, das im Körper an andere Proteine angehängt wird und so deren Funktion kontrollieren und verändern kann. Die Anheftung...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Alle Focus-News des Innovations-reports >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

IHR
JOB & KARRIERE
SERVICE
im innovations-report
in Kooperation mit academics
Veranstaltungen

Die „Panama Papers“ aus Programmierersicht

22.03.2017 | Veranstaltungen

Über Raum, Zeit und Materie

22.03.2017 | Veranstaltungen

Unter der Haut

22.03.2017 | Veranstaltungen

 
VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
Weitere VideoLinks >>>
Aktuelle Beiträge

Die Evolutionsgeschichte der Wespen, Bienen und Ameisen erstmals entschlüsselt

23.03.2017 | Biowissenschaften Chemie

Neurone am Rande der Katastrophe: Wie das Gehirn durch kritische Zustände effizient arbeitet

23.03.2017 | Seminare Workshops

Müll in den Weltmeeren überall präsent: 1220 Arten betroffen

23.03.2017 | Ökologie Umwelt- Naturschutz