Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Controlling brain messengers to someday rewire the brain?

From physorg:

Researchers at MIT's Picower Institute for Learning and Memory have found that tiny, spontaneous releases of the brain's primary chemical messengers can be regulated, potentially giving scientists unprecedented control over how the brain is wired...
J. Troy Littleton, Fred and Carole Middleton Associate Professor of Biology at MIT, and colleagues found that the miniscule events that follow a burst of electrical and chemical activity among neurons are far more important that previously thought. A breakdown in this molecular mechanism could be the culprit in schizophrenia and other neurological diseases, the authors reported.
Apparently, complexins play a key part in controlling the release of the brain's chemical messengers. To study this, the team genetically modified fruit flies who make no complexins whatsoever. They determined that complexins are the gatekeepers that prevent the neurotransmitters from releasing prematurely. Complexins prevent unchecked cell growth.

This spontaneous release in the brain is not only important for signaling, it can trigger synaptic growth," Littleton said. "What's really exciting is that complexin's activity may be regulated. If we can regulate this machinery, we may be able to promote synaptic growth and potentially allow targeted rewiring in areas of the brain affected in various neurological diseases."

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