Thinking with the spinal cord?

Jan 23, 2007

Two scientists from the University of Copenhagen have demonstrated that the spinal cord use network mechanisms similar to those used in the brain. The discovery is featured in the current issue of Science.

The research group behind the surprising results consists of Professor Jørn Hounsgaard and Post.doc Rune W. Berg from the University of Copenhagen, and Assistant Professor and PhD Aidas Alaburda from the University of Vilnius. The group has shown that spinal neurons, during network activity underlying movements, show the similar irregular firing patterns as seen in the cerebral cortex.

"Our findings contradict conventional wisdom about spinal cord functions," says Rune W. Berg from Department of Neuroscience and Pharmacology at the Faculty of Health Sciences.

Until now, the general belief was that the spinal networks functioned mechanically and completely without random impulses. The new discovery enables researchers to use the theory on cortical networks to explore how spinal cords generate movements.

How humans are able to move at all remains a puzzle. Our muscles are controlled by thousands of nerve cells in the spinal cord. This entire, complex system must work as a whole in order to successfully create a single motion. The new research shows that even if we repeat a certain motion with high accuracy, the involved nerve cells never repeat their activity patterns. This particular observation reflects the organisation of the nerve cells of the cerebral cortex.

Source: University of Copenhagen

Explore further: Life-prolonging protein could inhibit ageing diseases

Related Stories

Grass plants can transport infectious prions

May 16, 2015

Grass plants can bind, uptake and transport infectious prions, according to researchers at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth). The research was published online in the latest ...

Study shows where damaged DNA goes for repair

May 03, 2015

A Tufts University study sheds new light on the process by which DNA repair occurs within the cell. In research published in the May 15 edition of the journal Genes & Development and available May 4 onli ...

Keen sense of touch guides nimble bat flight

Apr 30, 2015

Bats fly with breathtaking precision because their wings are equipped with highly sensitive touch sensors, cells that respond to even slight changes in airflow, researchers have demonstrated for the first ...

Upside down and inside out

Apr 27, 2015

Researchers have captured the first 3D video of a living algal embryo turning itself inside out, from a sphere to a mushroom shape and back again. The results could help unravel the mechanical processes at ...

Recommended for you

Life-prolonging protein could inhibit ageing diseases

May 29, 2015

Researchers have found a molecule that plays a key link between dietary restriction and longevity in mammals. This discovery may lead to the development of new therapies to inhibit age-related diseases.

How sleep helps us learn and memorize

May 28, 2015

Sleep is important for long lasting memories, particularly during this exam season. Research publishing in PLOS Computational Biology suggests that sleeping triggers the synapses in our brain to both streng ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.