resume: The scientists put forward a hypothesis called “cell-electric coupling” that electric fields in the brain can manipulate components of neuron subunits, improving network stability and efficiency. They suggest that these domains allow neurons to tune the information processing network down to the molecular level.
Relatively speaking, the process is similar to families arranging their TV setup for the perfect viewing experience. The theory, which is open to testing, could vastly advance our understanding of the brain’s inner workings.
- The Cytoelectric Coupling Hypothesis suggests that the brain’s electric fields can adjust network stability and efficiency by influencing subneuron components.
- The brain’s ability to adapt to a changing world involves proteins and molecules interacting with electric fields generated by neurons.
- This new theory, which proposes a microscopic-to-microscopic connection in the brain, is a testable hypothesis that could revolutionize our understanding of how the brain functions.
source: Piccoer Institute for Learning and Memory
To produce its many functions, including thinking, the brain works on many levels. Information such as targets or images is represented by coordinated electrical activity between networks of neurons, while in and around each neuron a cocktail of proteins and other chemicals carry out the mechanisms involved in the network.
A new paper by researchers from MIT, City University – University of London and Johns Hopkins University argues that network electric fields influence the physical configuration of neuron subcellular components to improve network stability and efficiency, a hypothesis that the authors call “cellular electric call link. “
Count K. said: Miller, the Picower professor at the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory at MIT, who co-authored the article in Advances in neuroscience With assistant professor Dimitris Pinoutsis of MIT and City University – University of London, and professor Jane Friedman of Johns Hopkins.
“The brain adapts to a changing world,” says Benoutsis. “Proteins and molecules also change. They can carry electrical charges and must catch up with neurons that process, store and transmit information using electrical signals. Interaction with the electrical fields of neurons appears to be essential.”
Thinking in domains
Miller’s lab is particularly focused on studying how higher-level cognitive functions, such as working memory, can emerge quickly, flexibly, yet reliably from the activity of millions of individual neurons.
Neurons are able to dynamically shape circuits by making and removing connections called synapses, and strengthening or weakening those connections. But Miller said this is just a “roadmap” for information to flow around.
Miller found that specific neural circuits that collectively represent one thought or another are coordinated by rhythmic activity, colloquially known as “brain waves,” of varying frequencies.
Fast “gamma” rhythms help convey images from our vision (e.g. a doughnut), while slower “beta” waves can convey deeper thoughts about that image (e.g. “too many calories”).
Miller’s lab has shown that properly timed bursts of these waves can carry predictions and enable the writing, holding and reading of information in working memory. It crashes when working memory does too.
The lab reported evidence that the brain can explicitly manipulate rhythms at specific physical locations to further regulate neurons for fluid cognition, a concept called “spatial computing.”
Recent work from the lab has shown that while the participation of individual neurons in networks can be fickle and unreliable, the information carried by the networks they are part of is invariably represented by the aggregated electric fields generated by their collective activity.
Cellular electrical coupling
In the new study, the authors combined this model of the rhythmic electrical activity that orchestrates neural networks with other lines of evidence that electrical fields can affect neurons at the molecular level.
For example, researchers have studied adhesive coupling, in which neurons affect each other’s electrical properties through proximity to their membranes, rather than relying solely on electrochemical exchanges between synapses. This electrical crosstalk can affect neural functions, including when and whether they fire to transmit electrical signals to other neurons in the circuit.
Miller, Benoutsis and Friedman also cite research showing other electrical effects on cells and their components, including how neural development is controlled by fields and that microtubules can align with them.
If the brain carries information in electric fields, and those electric fields are able to create neurons and other elements in the brain that form a network, then the brain is more likely to use that ability. The authors suggest that the brain can use fields to make sure the network does what it’s supposed to do.
To put it (loosely) in potato terms, the success of network television isn’t just about its ability to send a clear signal to millions of homes. Also important are the little details, like the way each home arranges the TV screen, sound system, and living room furniture to maximize the experience.
The presence of the network, both in this metaphor and in the brain, motivates individual participants to configure their infrastructure to participate optimally, Miller said.
“Cytoelectric coupling links information at the mesoscale and macroscopic level down to the microscopic level of proteins that form the molecular basis of memory,” the authors wrote in the paper.
The article outlines the inspiring reasoning for photovoltaic coupling. “We’re providing a hypothesis that anyone can test,” Miller said.
financing: Support for the research came from the United Kingdom Research and Innovation (UKRI), the US Office of Naval Research, the JPB Foundation and the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory.
About this Neuroscience Research News
author: David Orenstein
source: Piccoer Institute for Learning and Memory
communication: David Orenstein – Picquer Institute for Learning and Memory
image: Image credited to Neuroscience News
Original search: open access.
“Cytoelectric Coupling: Electric Fields Sculpt Neural Activity and “Tune” Brain Infrastructure By Earl K. Miller et al. Advances in neuroscience
Cytoelectric coupling: Electric fields sculpt neural activity and “tune” the brain’s infrastructure
We propose and provide converging evidence for the cytoelectric coupling hypothesis: electric fields generated by neurons are causal down to the cytoskeletal level.
This can be achieved through electrical diffusion, mechanical transport and exchanges between electrical, potential and chemical energy. Ephaptic coupling regulates neuronal activity and forms neuronal clusters at the macro level.
This information propagates down to the level of neurons, affecting elevations, and down to the molecular level to stabilize the cytoskeleton, “tuning” it to process information more efficiently.