Introducing the brain: the role of glia cells (Introduction)

by David Turell @, Tuesday, June 19, 2018, 00:59 (899 days ago) @ David Turell

They function in memory and learning :

"Glial cells surround neurons and provide support—not unlike hospital staff and nurses supporting doctors to keep operations running smoothly. These often-overlooked cells, which include oligodendrocytes and astrocytes, are the most abundant cell types in the central nervous system.

"But these cells do more than support neurons. They also actively influence them, University of California, Riverside, researchers report.

"The researchers focused on astrocytes—star-shaped cells that greatly outnumber neurons—in mice, and found that when these cells overproduce a protein called ephrin-B1, the ability to retain memory weakens.

"We examined mouse learning behaviors and found that overproduction of this protein in astrocytes can lead to impaired retention of contextual memory and the ability to navigate in space," said Iryna Ethell, a professor of biomedical sciences in the School of Medicine, who led the research. "We think that astrocytes expressing too much of ephrin-B1 can attack neurons and remove synapses, the connections through which neurons communicate."


"'The overproduction of ephrin-B1 can be a novel mechanism by which unwanted synapses are removed in the healthy brain, with excessive removal leading to neurodegeneration" Ethell said.

"While the research was done on a mouse model, the results are applicable in humans whose astrocytes also produce ephrin-B1. Astrocytes tend to increase ephrin-B1 production during traumatic brain injury – which is what led Ethell to pursue the current research.


"'Excessive loss of synapses is a problem," Ethell said. "The hippocampus, the region of the brain associated primarily with memory, is plastic. Here, new neuronal connections are formed when we learn something new. But the hippocampus has a limited capacity; some connections need to go to 'make space' for new connections—new memories. To learn, we must first forget."

"In contrast to an ephrin-B1 increase, when this protein decreases (or is down-regulated) it results in more synapses—and better learning. The astrocytes, in this case, are not able to attach to the synapses.

"'But you don't want to remember everything," said Amanda Q Nguyen, a Neuroscience Graduate Program student working in Ethell's lab, and a co-first author of the research paper. "It's all about maintaining a balance: being able to learn but also to forget."

"Advice the researchers have for the public is simple: keep the brain—that is, the neurons—active.

"'Reading and solving puzzles is a good start," Ethell said."

Comment: Another way the brain/material side of dualism reacts, showing how the brain interfaces with the active soul/consciousness for learning and memory. Note how astrocytes are so plentiful compared to neurons. As usual these represent feedback controls that maintain consistency in the balance of living cells or organs.

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