US, WASHINGTON (ORDO NEWS) — Scientists believe that they have identified a previously unknown form of neural communication, which self-propagates through brain tissue and can wirelessly jump from neurons from one area of brain tissue to another – even if they were surgically separated.
The discovery, made in February 2019, offers some radically new ideas on how neurons can communicate with each other through a mysterious process unrelated to conventional mechanisms such as synaptic transmission, axon transport, and gap junctions.
“But we know that this is a completely new form of communication in the brain, so we are very happy about this,” said neuro-biomedicine engineer Dominic Duran from Case Western Reserve University last year.
Before that, scientists already knew that in neural communication there is something more than the connections mentioned above that have been studied in detail, such as synaptic transmission.
For example, the researchers knew that there were slow waves of nerve vibrations in the brain, the purpose of which is not clear to us, but which appear in the cortex and hippocampus during sleep, and therefore suggest that they play a role in memory consolidation.
“The functional significance of this slow network rhythm, not related to entry and exit, remains a mystery,” explained neuroscientist Clayton Dickinson of the University of Alberta, who did not participate in the new study, but discussed it in one of the promising articles.
To this end, Durant and his team investigated slow periodic in vitro activity by studying brain waves in hippocampal slices extracted from mice.
They found that slow periodic activity can generate electric fields, which in turn activate neighboring cells, forming a form of neural communication without chemical synaptic transmission or gap junctions.
“We have known about these waves for a long time, but no one knows their exact function, and no one believed that they can spontaneously propagate, ” Duran said .
“I studied the hippocampus, by itself, only one small part of the brain, for 40 years, and it surprises me.”
This neural activity can actually be modulated – amplified or blocked – by applying weak electric fields and can be the analog form of another cell communication method called the ephaptic connection.
The most radical conclusion of the team was that these electric fields can activate neurons through a complete gap in the severed brain tissue, when the two parts remain in close physical proximity.
Much more research will be required to find out if there is a bizarre form of neural communication in the human brain – not to mention deciphering exactly what function it performs – but now we have a new science.
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