Scientists Have Learned To Recognize The Brain Cells Responsible For Adaptation
Of the 89 billion nerve cells in the human brain, only a small fraction are capable of enabling people to adapt to changing circumstances. Neurons responsible for human cognitive abilities, if found to be located in a complex structure of the brain, make it possible not only to help healthy people increase their intellectual capabilities but also to significantly facilitate the search for adequate methods of treating mental diseases.
This conclusion was reached by researchers from Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, based on the latest advances in digital research of brain neurons. The researchers shared their discovery on the pages of the journal of the US National Academy of Sciences PNAS.
Evolution in the service of man
For a long time, the human brain, especially its cortex, has been undergoing evolutional changes, the scientific report notes. Along with progressive changes in the structures of this organ, the ability of a person to quickly adapt to changing living conditions increased. At the same time, any negative impact weakened cognitive abilities and led to the loss of skills acquired by homo sapiens.
Moreover, both mental and neurological diseases, experts note, are more severe and less susceptible to treatment if the activity of these areas of the cortex decreases.
The found cells act as a kind of switch that activates the cortex.
"These cells are a toggle switch that switches all the brain's efforts to overcome the stimulus, in search of the best ways to respond to it," says the project leader, Associate Professor of psychology and computer science at Vanderbilt University Tilo Womelsdorf. " in the absence of such a mechanism, a lot of energy will be spent on overcoming the negative impact on the brain, up to the destruction of the developed neural connections."
A promising discovery
The possibility of selecting the most active neurons of the brain and influencing them opens the way to a new hypothesis, believes Vohmelsdorf. For example, the nerve cells responsible for playing musical instruments, according to researchers, are located next to adaptogenic neurons. Knowing the location of the latter will help you quickly choose a treatment in case of any mental illnesses, the scientist emphasizes.
A group of nerve cells located below the cortical layer, at the level of the basal ganglia, which the researchers attributed to the responsibility for human cognitive abilities, was isolated by measuring bioactivity in computer simulations of real-life situations.
The scientists were assisted by colleagues from the center for vision research at York University in the Canadian province of Ontario, who developed several simulation techniques to track the activity of these zones.
When scientists used their technique to measure the activity of cells against the background of visual images, it decreased if, according to legend, the subject was able to solve the problem, and, conversely, increased when faced with difficulties.
"The neurons we identified seem to help other neural circuits overcome difficulties, as well as amplify the signals of new incoming information," comments Kianush Banai Borouzheni, an employee of the Womelsdorf laboratory.
"A revolution is coming in neuroscience," said Lisa Monteggia, a Professor of pharmacology at Vanderbilt University. "The ability to use technology to control a nerve cell using molecular and genetic tools can only work if scientists know the location of these neurons. We believe that the work of the Womelsdorf laboratory gives us this opportunity."