Register for updates

 
 

Medicine & Health
RSS Feed
Single-Neuron “Hub” Orchestrates Activity of an Entire Brain Circuit
Monday, September 29, 2014 9:57:00 AM

TAU maps precise triggers that activate and neutralize brain cell networks

The idea of mapping the brain is not new. Researchers have known for years that the key to treating, curing, and even preventing brain disorders such as Alzheimer's disease, epilepsy, and traumatic brain injury, is to understand how the brain records, processes, stores, and retrieves information.

New Tel Aviv University research published in PLOS Computational Biology makes a major contribution to efforts to navigate the brain. The study, by Prof. Eshel Ben-Jacob and Dr. Paolo Bonifazi of TAU's School of Physics and Astronomy and Sagol School of Neuroscience, and Prof. Alessandro Torcini and Dr. Stefano Luccioli of the Instituto dei Sistemi Complessi, under the auspices of TAU's Joint Italian-Israeli Laboratory on Integrative Network Neuroscience, offers a precise model of the organization of developing neuronal circuits.

In an earlier study of the hippocampi of newborn mice, Dr. Bonifazi discovered that a few "hub neurons" orchestrated the behavior of entire circuits. In the new study, the researchers harnessed cutting-edge technology to reproduce these findings in a computer-simulated model of neuronal circuits. "If we are able to identify the cellular type of hub neurons, we could try to reproduce them in vitro out of stem cells and transplant these into aged or damaged brain circuitries in order to recover functionality," said Dr. Bonifazi.

Flight dynamics and brain neurons

"Imagine that only a few airports in the world are responsible for all flight dynamics on the planet," said Dr. Bonifazi. "We found this to be true of hub neurons in their orchestration of circuits' synchronizations during development. We have reproduced these findings in a new computer model."

According to this model, one stimulated hub neuron impacts an entire circuit dynamic; similarly, just one muted neuron suppresses all coordinated activity of the circuit. "We are contributing to efforts to identify which neurons are more important to specific neuronal circuits," said Dr. Bonifazi. "If we can identify which cells play a major role in controlling circuit dynamics, we know how to communicate with an entire circuit, as in the case of the communication between the brain and prosthetic devices."

Conducting the orchestra of the brain

In the course of their research, the team found that the timely activation of cells is fundamental for the proper operation of hub neurons, which, in turn, orchestrate the entire network dynamic. In other words, a clique of hubs works in a kind of temporally-organized fashion, according to which "everyone has to be active at the right time," according to Dr. Bonifazi.

Coordinated activation impacts the entire network. Just by alternating the timing of the activity of one neuron, researchers were able to affect the operation of a small clique of neurons, and finally that of the entire network.

"Our study fits within framework of the 'complex network theory,' an emerging discipline that explores similar trends and properties among all kinds of networks — i.e., social networks, biological networks, even power plants," said Dr. Bonifazi. "This theoretical approach offers key insights into many systems, including the neuronal circuit network in our brains."

Parallel to their theoretical study, the researchers are conducting experiments on in vitro cultured systems to better identify electrophysiological and chemical properties of hub neurons. The joint Italy-Israel laboratory is also involved in a European project aimed at linking biological and artificial neuronal circuitries to restore lost brain functions.




Latest News

Prof. Illana Gozes Receives Top RARE Gene Award

World-renowned neuroscientist and geneticist celebrated for "commitment to research and new therapies."

Neural Membrane's Structural Instability May Trigger Multiple Sclerosis

TAU researchers discover physical mechanism that may enable immune system attack.

The Steve Tisch School of Film and Television at TAU Hosts First Annual Influencer Award

Homeland executive producer and TAU alum Gideon Raff honored at September 14th reception.

Stopping Breast Cancer Metastasis in Its Tracks

TAU researcher harnesses targeted delivery of microRNAs to primary tumors in mice to block the movement of cancer.

TAU Exchange Program Produces Sustainable, Measurable Tolerance

Curriculum based on direct contact, mutual respect and empathy exercises is "hate-preventative," say researchers.

TAU Among Top 10 Universities for Venture Capital-Backed Entrepreneurs

TAU joins Stanford, UC Berkeley, and MIT on global VC database list.

Battle of the Sexes? Not When Negotiating with Friends

TAU study finds women achieve better results when negotiating on behalf of friends.

Induced Labor After Water Breakage Poses No Harm to Mothers or Their Babies, TAU Researchers Find

Natural and induced deliveries following amniotic sac rupture share similar neonatal outcomes.

Steve Tisch School of Film and Television Announces First Annual Influencer Award

Homeland Executive Producer and TAU Alum Gideon Raff to be honored at September 14th reception at Sony Pictures Studios.

TAU Research Reveals How Melanoma Spreads to Other Organs in the Body

Findings may lead to a cure for the deadly disease.

TAU Researcher Awarded 2016 MetLife Foundation Prize

Dr. Inna Slutsky receives illustrious award for outstanding research in the field of Alzheimer's disease.

Brain's Prefrontal Lobe Is Major Player in Parkinson's Gait

Cognitive functions play an active role in the gait pattern of Parkinson's patients, say TAU researchers.

Novel Technology May Prevent Burn Scars

Researchers at Tel Aviv and Harvard Universities develop method to control collagen-cell proliferation that produces scarring.

Flexible Building Blocks of the Future

New mechanical "metamaterial" developed at TAU may revolutionize prosthetics and wearable technologies.

contentSecondary
c

© 2016 American Friends of Tel Aviv University
39 Broadway, Suite 1510 | New York, NY 10002 | 212.742.9070 | info@aftau.org
Privacy policy | Tel Aviv University