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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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Exposure To High Levels of Air Pollution May Lead To Changes in Children’s Brain Structure

Previous studies of traffic-related air pollution suggest that it contributes to neurodegenerative diseases and neurodevelopmental disorders

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Air Pollution
The researchers found that children with higher levels of air pollution exposure at birth had reductions at age 12 in gray matter volume and cortical thickness as compared to children with lower levels of exposure. Pixabay

Exposure to high levels of traffic-related air pollution at age 1 may lead to structural changes in the brain at the age of 12 which can influence the development of various physical and mental processes, warns a study.

The researchers found that children with higher levels of air pollution exposure at birth had reductions at age 12 in gray matter volume and cortical thickness as compared to children with lower levels of exposure. Gray matter includes regions of the brain involved in motor control as well as sensory perception, such as seeing and hearing. Cortical thickness reflects the outer gray matter depth.

The study, published online in the journal PLOS One, found that specific regions in the frontal and parietal lobes and the cerebellum were affected with decreases on the order of three to four per cent. “The results of this study, though exploratory, suggest that where you live and the air you breathe can affect how your brain develops,” said lead author of the study Travis Beckwith, PhD, a research fellow at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in the US.

“While the percentage of loss is far less than what might be seen in a degenerative disease state, this loss may be enough to influence the development of various physical and mental processes,” Beckwith said. For the study, the researchers used magnetic resonance imaging to obtain anatomical brain images from 147 kids.

These children are a subset of the Cincinnati Childhood Allergy and Air Pollution Study (CCAAPS), which recruited volunteers prior to the age of six months to examine early childhood exposure to traffic-related air pollution and health outcomes.

Pollution
Exposure to high levels of traffic-related air pollution at age 1 may lead to structural changes in the brain at the age of 12 which can influence the development of various physical and mental processes, warns a study. Pixabay

The volunteers in the CCAAPS had either high or low levels of pollution exposure during their first year of life. The researchers estimated exposure using an air sampling network of 27 sites in the Cincinnati area, and 24/7 sampling was conducted simultaneously at four or five sites over different seasons.

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Participating children and their caregivers completed clinic visits at ages 1, 2, 3, 4, 7 and 12. Previous studies of traffic-related air pollution suggest that it contributes to neurodegenerative diseases and neurodevelopmental disorders. (IANS)