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Information flows through only 20 percent of brain region

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New Delhi: Indian-origin researcher and his team from Indiana University discovered that just like most of the world’s air travel passes a few major hubs, the majority of information in the brain flows through well-traveled routes.

According to the team, 70 percent of all information within cortical regions in the brain passes through only 20 percent of these regions’ neurons.

“The discovery of this small but information-rich subset of neurons within cortical regions suggests this sub-network might play a vital role in communication, learning and memory,” said Sunny Nigam, Ph D candidate in the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Physics and lead author on the study.

These high-traffic “hub neurons” could play a vital role in understanding brain health since this sort of highly efficient network is also more vulnerable to disruption.

“The brain seems to favor efficiency over vulnerability,” said John M Beggs, associate professor of biophysics in a paper appeared the journal Neuroscience.

To conduct the study, scientists recorded small electrical impulses from up to 500 neurons from a part of the brain responsible for the sense of touch.

“This is the first study to combine such a large number of neurons with such high temporal resolution,” Nigam added.

The experiments, conducted in live and tissue samples, were based in rodents.

Similar high-traffic zones in the cortex have been shown to exist in more advanced mammals, including primates and adult humans.

Understanding how the brain maintains good “air traffic control” between information-rich and information-poor neurons will be the next step in unraveling the mystery of hub neurons.

“If we ever want to understand how these types of neurons keep information in our heads flowing smoothly, we really need to learn a lot more about how they work together,” Nigam noted.(IANS)

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Frequency of Brain Tumours Increase in Children With Common Genetic Syndrome

Applying the new criteria to MRI scans will help physicians identify probable tumours.

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Brain tumours may occur in children with common genetic syndrome
Brain tumours may occur in children with common genetic syndrome, Pixabya

Parents, please take note. The frequency of brain tumours has been underestimated in children with the common genetic syndrome — neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1), a new study has found.

According to the researchers, this disorder is characterised by birthmarks on the skin and benign nerve tumours that develop in or on the skin. Brain tumours are also known to occur in children and adults with NF1.

They estimated that only 15-20 per cent of kids with NF1 develop brain tumours. But the study, published in the journal Neurology: Clinical Practice, found that the frequency of brain tumours in this population was more than three times higher.

brain tumours can be confused with harmless bright spots, it has never been clear whether finding these abnormalities via MRI should be a cause for concern
Brain tumours can be confused with harmless bright spots, it has never been clear whether finding these abnormalities via MRI should be a cause for concern. Wikimedia Commons

“I’m not delivering the message anymore that brain tumours are rare in NF1. This study has changed how I decide which children need more surveillance and when to let the neuro-oncologists know that we may have a problem,” said senior author David H. Gutmann from the Washington University School of Medicine.

Brain Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans of children with NF1 characteristically show bright spots that are absent in the scans of unaffected children. Unlike tumours, they are generally thought to disappear in teenage years, the researchers said.

Since brain tumours can be confused with harmless bright spots, it has never been clear whether finding these abnormalities via MRI should be a cause for concern, they added.

Representation of a Brain Tumour. Flickr
Representation of a Brain Tumor. Flickr

For the study, the team developed a set of criteria to distinguish tumours from other bright spots. The researchers then analysed scans from 68 NF1 patients and 46 children without NF1 for comparison.

Also Read: Taking Care of Mental Health Problems in Children, may Boost Parent’s Mental Health Too 

All but four (94 per cent) of the children with NF1 had bright spots, and none of the children without NF1 did. Further, in 57 per cent of the children with bright spots, at least one of the spots was deemed likely to be a tumour, the research team found.

Applying the new criteria to MRI scans will help physicians identify probable tumours, but that does not mean that all children with NF1 should be scanned regularly, the researchers cautioned. (IANS)