Recently, scientists have found a new mechanism that regulates how our neurons communicate between themselves, which allows us to learn and memorize things. The simple brain mechanism has been right in front of the eyes of science for years, and is another example of our inability to understand how the brain functions. The discovery of the mechanism can also play a part in the treatment of epilepsy and Alzheimer’s disease.
According to Dr. Jeremy Hanley, the leader of the research, the discovery will have broad implications for our understanding of how the brain works. The groundbreaking study can open up the way for more research which can focus on the using the pathway to treat numerous brain diseases.
Our brain contains more than 100 million neurons – every neuron makes over 10 000 connections which are called synapses. Each of these connections can be either boosted or weakened by various factors and brain mechanisms which scientists are still unable to grasp. Until recently, LTP (long-term potentiation), was the best-known mechanism for boosting the synapse data flow. LTP can hasten up the transfer between synapses and also increases the risk of several serious neurodegenerative disorders if there’s too much of it in the brain. According to previous research, LTP is controlled by NMDA receptors, but the recent research has discovered a new type of factor which enhances synapse connections in a completely new way.
After investigating the creation of synapses, the team of scientists found out that the new LTP mechanism is controlled by kainite receptors. This means they’ve discovered a new mechanism that may be in control of our memory and learning. “Discovering how the neurons communicate with each other will tell us more about the workings of the brain and provide a new insight in what happens within the brain when we form new memories,” Milos Petrovic, one of the scientists involved in the research says. By preserving the signals, the scientists hope they can prevent brain diseases.
By finding a way to target these pathways, scientists could find a way of protection against neurodegenerative diseases. Although the research is still in the early stages, further investigation of the mechanism will certainly provide more insight in the mysteries in the human brain.
Article and image source: http://www.sciencealert.com