Monday, March 11, 2013

Human Brain Cells Make Mice Smart

A team of neuroscientists has grafted human brain cells into the brains of mice and found that the rodents’ rate of learning and memory far surpassed that of ordinary mice.  Remarkably, the cells transplanted were not neurons, but rather types of brain cells, called glia, that are incapable of electrical signaling.  The new findings suggest that information processing in the brain extends beyond the mechanism of electrical signaling between neurons...Long-term potentiation (LTP) is the widely-studied strengthening of synaptic connections that is observed after a neuron is stimulated repeatedly.  This fundamental phenomenon of repetitive firing strengthening synaptic connections is thought to be the cellular basis for memory, just as repetition in learning helps form lasting memories.  In mice engrafted with human astrocytes, much less stimulation was needed to cause the synapse to suddenly increase the voltage it produced in signaling to the postsynaptic neuron and this amplified signal was maintained long after the stimulus was delivered (LTP).  When these mice were given standardized behavioral tests of learning and memory, the mice engrafted with human astrocytes outperformed mice injected with astrocytes from other mice as a control. more

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