Scientists at the University of Bonn have unearthed the root cause for the development of temporal lobe epilepsy! At an early stage, astrocytes are uncoupled from each other, this results in the extracellular accumulation of potassium ions and neurotransmitters, which cause hyper-excitability of the neurons. Astrocytes are connected by gap junction channels composed mainly of the gap junction protein (connexin 43 and connexin 30). In this study, researchers combined patch-clamp recordings with various immunotechniques to decipher of the role of impaired gap junctions channels in the etiology of epilepsy. So, the restoration of the astrocyte dysfunction could be a novel strategy for anti-epileptogenic therapeutic intervention.
Bedner P, Dupper A, Hüttmann K, Müller J, Herde MK, Dublin P, Deshpande T, Schramm J, Häussler U, Haas CA, Henneberger C, Theis M, & Steinhäuser C (2015). Astrocyte uncoupling as a cause of human temporal lobe epilepsy. Brain : a journal of neurology, 138 (Pt 5), 1208-22 PMID: 25765328
A team of researchers at the Nicolelis Laboratory based in the Duke University have given rats the ability to perceive infrared light, normally invisible to them. They attached an infrared detector to the head wired to microscopic electrodes implanted in the somatosensory cortex (S1). This achievement represents the first time a brain-machine interface has augmented natural perceptual capabilities in mammals.
Interestingly, it was observed that neurons in the stimulated regions of S1 maintained their normal tactile ability to respond to whisker deflection. Therefore, two different cortical representations, became superimposed on the animal’s S1 cortex, creating a novel bimodal processing region.
Moreover, this experimental paradigm could be expanded to other stimulus such as magnetic or radio waves to be represented in brain region. Researchers hope that studying the underlying mechanisms in which the brain is creating a novel processing region would be helpful to further investigate the phenomenon of brain plasticity.
Thomson EE, Carra R, & Nicolelis MA (2013). Perceiving invisible light through a somatosensory cortical prosthesis. Nature communications, 4 PMID: 23403583