Bite-size Science: Immune Cells use Neurotransmitter to Communicate

Researchers have suspected for a few years that neurotransmitters like dopamine play a role in how the immune system functions. But they didn’t know how cells in the immune system would actually used dopamine. A paper published on July 12 of this year shows for the first time that cells in the immune system send dopamine to other cells to trigger them into action. This is just like how neurons use dopamine in the brain! Check out the infographic for a summary of the discovery!

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From Stevens to Synapses: A Conversation with Kelsey Martin

martin_10_18Take your wildest guess.  How many neurons make up the human brain?  You’re not guessing wild enough if you said anything less than a trillion.  The circuitry of the human brain consists of a quadrillion (1015) synapses.  These neural circuits aren’t necessarily hard-wired and have the capacity to be re-wired in response to experience. In our interview with Dr. Kelsey C. Martin, Professor of Psychiatry and Biological Chemistry at University of California, Los Angeles, we discuss the long-lasting forms of plasticity that enable memories to be formed.  During the course of our conversation, Dr. Martin shares stories from her time in the Peace Corps. and discusses what it was like to study memory formation as a post-doc in the lab of the Nobel Prize winning scientist, Eric Kandel.  In this highly anticipated interview from Knowing Neurons, we sit down with Dr. Martin to get advice on what it takes to become a Principal Investigator, to discuss her upcoming Presidential lecture at SFN, and to find out exactly what this English major turned M.D./Ph.D. is currently reading.Continue reading

Magnesium Supplement to Treat Alzheimer’s Disease

The human brain contains roughly eighty-six billion (~10^10) neurons, each of which forms approximately ten thousand (10^4) synaptic connections with other neurons. Therefore, on average, there are one hundred trillion (10^14) synapses in the brain! Maintaining the health of these synapses is essential for proper brain function and higher cognitive functions like learning, memory, and emotion. Dysfunction of synaptic function is thought to underlie many types of neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease and aging related dementia. Those affected with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia have severe learning and memory impairments, impaired judgment, severe anxiety and other mood disruptions.Continue reading

LTP: When Neurons Make a Long-term Commitment

A few months ago, I got a new smart phone that had a bigger screen and a different operating system. For a while, I was annoyed that I made so many typos when texting and emailing, but now I’m completely competent with my new phone! It even feels strange to use the old one. In neuroscience, an experience like this is called synaptic plasticity, which refers to the brain’s ability to change as a result of experience.Continue reading