Cross-modal reorganization of callosal connectivity without altering thalamocortical projections.
Mammalian cerebral cortex is composed of a multitude of different areas that are each specialized for a unique purpose. It is unclear whether the activity pattern and modality of sensory inputs to cortex play an important role in the development of cortical regionalization. The modality of sensory inputs to cerebral cortex can be altered experimentally. Neonatal diversion of retinal axons to the auditory thalamus (cross-modal rewiring) results in a primary auditory cortex (AI) that resembles the primary visual cortex in its visual response properties and topography. Functional reorganization could occur because the visual inputs use existing circuitry in AI, or because the early visual inputs promote changes in AI's circuitry that make it capable of constructing visual receptive field properties. The present study begins to distinguish between these possibilities by exploring whether the callosal connectivity of AI is altered by early visual experience. Here we show that early visual inputs to auditory thalamus can reorganize callosal connections in auditory cortex, causing both a reduction in their extent and a reorganization of the pattern. This result is distinctly different from that in deafened animals, which have widespread callosal connections, as in early postnatal development. Thus, profound changes in cortical circuitry can result simply from a change in the modality of afferent input. Similar changes may underlie cortical compensatory processes in deaf and blind humans. (+info)
Splendours and miseries of the brain.
In this speculative essay, I examine two evolutionary developments underlying the enormous success of the human brain: its capacity to acquire knowledge and its variability across individuals. A feature of an efficient knowledge-acquiring system is, I believe, its capacity to abstract and to formulate ideals. Both attributes carry with them a clash between experience of the particular and what the brain has developed from experience of the many. Both therefore can lead to much disappointment in our daily lives. This disappointment is heightened by the fact that both abstraction and ideals are subject to variability in time within an individual and between individuals. Variability, which is a cherished source for evolutionary selection, can also be an isolating and individualizing feature in society. Thus the very features of the human brain which underlie our enormous evolutionary success can also be a major source of our misery. (+info)
The decade of the brain: a brief review.
Recognising the huge burden of neurological and psychiatric disorders and prompted by the potentials of new techniques of molecular biology, biotechnology, genetics and imaging to study these, the 1990s were declared the 'decade of the brain'. This stimulated global scientific efforts to understand the human brain in health and disease. This review summarises some of the major research achievements during the decade. While it is impossible to provide a comprehensive summary of the voluminous data that has been generated, it was decided to provide a bird's eye view of the recent advances in the fields of developmental neurobiology, neurogenetics, neurochemistry and imaging of the brain, which have direct relevance for the clinicians. (+info)
A neurobiologically informed perspective on psychotherapy.
BACKGROUND: Polarisation of biological and psychosocial aspects of psychiatry has promoted a form of Cartesian dualism. Current knowledge of the interaction between biology and psychology makes it possible to consider a truly integrative approach to treatment. AIMS: The aim of this overview is to consider conceptual models of how psychotherapy may affect the brain. METHOD: The literature discussing the mutual influence of genes and environment is surveyed. Relevant data involving the influence of psychotherapy on the brain are also reviewed. RESULTS: Research findings suggest that the brain responds to environmental influence through the alteration of gene expression; that psychotherapy has specific measurable effects on the brain; and that implicit memory may be modified by psychotherapeutic interventions. CONCLUSIONS: Advances in neuroscience research have led to a more sophisticated understanding of how psychotherapy may affect brain functioning. These developments point the way towards a new era of psychotherapy research and practice in which specific modes of psychotherapy can be designed to target specific sites of brain functioning. (+info)
The brain decade in debate: III. Neurobiology of emotion.
This article is a transcription of an electronic symposium in which active researchers were invited by the Brazilian Society of Neuroscience and Behavior (SBNeC) to discuss the advances of the last decade in the neurobiology of emotion. Four basic questions were debated: 1) What are the most critical issues/questions in the neurobiology of emotion? 2) What do we know for certain about brain processes involved in emotion and what is controversial? 3) What kinds of research are needed to resolve these controversial issues? 4) What is the relationship between learning, memory and emotion? The focus was on the existence of different neural systems for different emotions and the nature of the neural coding for the emotional states. Is emotion the result of the interaction of different brain regions such as the amygdala, the nucleus accumbens, or the periaqueductal gray matter or is it an emergent property of the whole brain neural network? The relationship between unlearned and learned emotions was also discussed. Are the circuits of the former the underpinnings of the latter? It was pointed out that much of what we know about emotions refers to aversively motivated behaviors, like fear and anxiety. Appetitive emotions should attract much interest in the future. The learning and memory relationship with emotions was also discussed in terms of conditioned and unconditioned stimuli, innate and learned fear, contextual cues inducing emotional states, implicit memory and the property of using this term for animal memories. In a general way it could be said that learning modifies the neural circuits through which emotional responses are expressed. (+info)
The neurobiology and evolution of cannabinoid signalling.
The plant Cannabis sativa has been used by humans for thousands of years because of its psychoactivity. The major psychoactive ingredient of cannabis is Delta(9)-tetrahydrocannabinol, which exerts effects in the brain by binding to a G-protein-coupled receptor known as the CB1 cannabinoid receptor. The discovery of this receptor indicated that endogenous cannabinoids may occur in the brain, which act as physiological ligands for CB1. Two putative endocannabinoid ligands, arachidonylethanolamide ('anandamide') and 2-arachidonylglycerol, have been identified, giving rise to the concept of a cannabinoid signalling system. Little is known about how or where these compounds are synthesized in the brain and how this relates to CB1 expression. However, detailed neuroanatomical and electrophysiological analysis of mammalian nervous systems has revealed that the CB1 receptor is targeted to the presynaptic terminals of neurons where it acts to inhibit release of 'classical' neurotransmitters. Moreover, an enzyme that inactivates endocannabinoids, fatty acid amide hydrolase, appears to be preferentially targeted to the somatodendritic compartment of neurons that are postsynaptic to CB1-expressing axon terminals. Based on these findings, we present here a model of cannabinoid signalling in which anandamide is synthesized by postsynaptic cells and acts as a retrograde messenger molecule to modulate neurotransmitter release from presynaptic terminals. Using this model as a framework, we discuss the role of cannabinoid signalling in different regions of the nervous system in relation to the characteristic physiological actions of cannabinoids in mammals, which include effects on movement, memory, pain and smooth muscle contractility. The discovery of the cannabinoid signalling system in mammals has prompted investigation of the occurrence of this pathway in non-mammalian animals. Here we review the evidence for the existence of cannabinoid receptors in non-mammalian vertebrates and invertebrates and discuss the evolution of the cannabinoid signalling system. Genes encoding orthologues of the mammalian CB1 receptor have been identified in a fish, an amphibian and a bird, indicating that CB1 receptors may occur throughout the vertebrates. Pharmacological actions of cannabinoids and specific binding sites for cannabinoids have been reported in several invertebrate species, but the molecular basis for these effects is not known. Importantly, however, the genomes of the protostomian invertebrates Drosophila melanogaster and Caenorhabditis elegans do not contain CB1 orthologues, indicating that CB1-like cannabinoid receptors may have evolved after the divergence of deuterostomes (e.g. vertebrates and echinoderms) and protostomes. Phylogenetic analysis of the relationship of vertebrate CB1 receptors with other G-protein-coupled receptors reveals that the paralogues that appear to share the most recent common evolutionary origin with CB1 are lysophospholipid receptors, melanocortin receptors and adenosine receptors. Interestingly, as with CB1, each of these receptor types does not appear to have Drosophila orthologues, indicating that this group of receptors may not occur in protostomian invertebrates. We conclude that the cannabinoid signalling system may be quite restricted in its phylogenetic distribution, probably occurring only in the deuterostomian clade of the animal kingdom and possibly only in vertebrates. (+info)
Cognitive neuroscience: who to play at poker.
Every neuroscientist knows that emotions are as much to do with the head as the heart, but as a number of new studies show, the heart - or rather the body - and the brain are by no means independent purveyors of feeling and emotion. (+info)
Noninvasive neuroelectronic interfacing with synaptically connected snail neurons immobilized on a semiconductor chip.
A hybrid circuit of a semiconductor chip and synaptically connected neurons was implemented and characterized. Individual nerve cells from the snail Lymnaea stagnalis were immobilized on a silicon chip by microscopic picket fences of polyimide. The cells formed a network with electrical synapses after outgrowth in brain conditioned medium. Pairs of neurons were electronically interfaced for noninvasive stimulation and recording. Voltage pulses were applied to a capacitive stimulator on the chip to excite the attached neuron. Signals were transmitted in the neuronal net and elicited an action potential in a second neuron. The postsynaptic excitation modulated the current of a transistor on the chip. The implementation of the silicon-neuron-neuron-silicon circuit constitutes a proof-of-principle experiment for the development of neuroelectronic systems to be used in studies on neuronal signal processing, neurocomputation, and neuroprosthetics. (+info)