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Brains response to visual stimuli helps us to focus on what we should see, rather than all there is to see

"But if you realize that the brain has ten times as many subsets of neurons, it is doing ten times as much computation, and is that much smarter," he noted.

In this study, Callaway and Yoshimura sought to look at the networks that pair together excitatory and inhibitory neurons. These neurons work directly with each other to shape responses to stimuli. This "go-no" kind of interaction is necessary, Callaway says, or a positive feedback of chemical signals across neuronal synapses would result in a myriad of disorders, including epilepsy.

They simultaneously measured activity in both a specific type of inhibitory neuron, called fast-spiking, and a neighboring excitatory neuron. They then stimulated one or the other neuron and measured responses in the second neuron. They found that connections from the fast-spiking neurons were six times stronger when both cells were interconnected than if there was only a one-way inhibitory connection "This demonstrated that neurons primarily inhibited just the cells that excited it, and that tells us there is specificity in these fine-scale circuits." They then went on two show that these neuron pairs with two-way connections belonged to the same fine-scale subnetworks. "This means that inhibitory circuits can also precisely influence the activity of selected sub networks."

Callaway says the study demonstrates that neuroscientists "are really getting down to real nuts and bolts of cell type specificity, meaning that different types of neurons have different function, just like different blood cells perform different roles," he said. "We are not satisfied any more just to say what happens within a brain area. It is much more complicated _ and interesting _ than that."


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Contact: Cathy Yarbrough
yarbrough@salk.edu
858-453-4100 x1290
Salk Institute
21-Oct-2005


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