Brain Research: Pain, Face, and Competition

(ORDO NEWS) — Scientists at the University of Texas are investigating the process of propagation of a pain signal in humans.

Neuroscientists at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, have discovered neurons that are responsible for face recognition. Scientists at the Massachusetts Hospital have found neurons that regulate the ability to compete in mice.

How to deal with pain

Painkillers – anesthetics – do not always help. Special receptors on the skin, periosteum, joints and internal organs are responsible for the perception of pain. The receptor receives a pain signal (for example, a person pricked his finger) and transmits it to the nerve node (it is called the spinal ganglion).

The node transmits a signal to the spinal cord, to which it connects through the intervertebral space. Then the signal goes up the spinal cord to the nuclei of the thalamus (this is already the brain) and reaches the sensory cortex. And the person feels pain.

The role of the spinal ganglia in pain transmission is very important, and scientists at the University of Texas have focused on her. They received a complete transcriptome of the neurons that make up this ganglion.

That is, they found out exactly which genes work in these neurons, and which proteins are obtained in this case. It turned out that the work of this node in humans is very different from mice and even from non-human primates.

In humans, the pain signal is processed differently. Many anesthetics have been developed in mouse models, so they don’t work. Now there is a chance to develop new painkillers that are specific to humans.

Recognize a familiar face

Face recognition is one of the most important functions of the brain. It has long been established that neurons of the cortex, including the fusiform gyrus, play an important role in recognition. Various variants of recognition processes have been proposed, but so far much remains unclear.

Scientists at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles study that changed the scientific point of view on the process of face recognition. The study was conducted on 13 patients who had electrodes inserted into their brains. All of them suffer from epilepsy, and electrodes in this case are normal clinical practice.

When the subjects looked at images of faces, the same amygdala neurons fired. Scientists called these neurons “facial cells.” The amygdala forms reactions of fear and joy. The signal from the amygdala is transmitted to the hippocampus, which is responsible for episodic memory.

When the “facial cells” were excited in the hippocampus, theta waves appeared, which are directly related to the formation of memories.

Moreover, a vivid reaction occurred when the subject saw an unfamiliar face. The reaction to familiar faces was smoothed out. Apparently, if the face is already stored in memory,

Social Behavior Management

Neuroscientists at the Massachusetts General Hospital have studied real-time responses of neurons in a group of mice. Scientists were able to identify groups of neurons in the anterior cingulate cortex that respond to the ability to compete and social activity of animals.

Moreover, these neurons allow us to predict the future success of the animal before the start of the competition. Success is not only the result of physical fitness or natural strength, neural signals reflect the determination of the animal to win.

“These unique neurons are able to integrate information about the environment, the state of the social group, and the size of the reward to calculate the best behavior,” says study author William Lee.

Tuning the activity of these neurons can artificially increase or decrease an animal’s competitive “drive” and therefore control its competitive abilities.

“We could raise and lower the competitive impulse of an animal and do it selectively without affecting other aspects of behavior, such as speed of movement or motivation,” says the scientist.

The researchers believe their findings are important for understanding the autism spectrum neurocognitive disorders that characterize social behavior.


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