'Singing brains' offers epilepsy and schizophrenia clues

May 19, 2009

Studying the way a person's brain 'sings' could improve our understanding of conditions such as epilepsy and schizophrenia and help develop better treatments, scientists at Cardiff University have discovered.

Research by a team working in Cardiff University's Brain Research Imaging Centre (CUBRIC) has discovered that a person's brain produces a unique electrical oscillation at a particular frequency when a person looks at a visual pattern.

Importantly, the team found that the frequency of this oscillation appears to be determined by the concentration of a neurotransmitter chemical, GABA, in the visual cortex of each person's brain. The more GABA was present, the higher the frequency or "note" of the oscillation. GABA is a key inhibitory
neurotransmitter and is essential for the normal operation of the brain.

The research was primarily carried out by Dr Suresh Muthukumaraswamy and Dr Richard Edden and has just been published in the , USA.

Professor Krish Singh of Cardiff University's School of Psychology, who led the research, said: "Using sophisticated MEG and brain imaging equipment, we've found that when a person looks at a visual pattern their brain produces an , known as a gamma oscillation, at a set frequency.

"In effect, each person's 'sings' at a different note in the range 40-70 Hz. This is similar to the notes in the lowest octaves of a standard piano keyboard or the lower notes on a bass guitar. Importantly, we also found that this frequency appears to be controlled by how much of an essential neurotransmitter, GABA, is present in a person's ."

The researchers believe that their findings will have important implications for future clinical studies, especially in terms of increasing our understanding of conditions such as epilepsy and schizophrenia, where it is known that there may be a problem with GABA.

Professor Singh added: "As a result of our research, we are already looking to share this work with our medical colleagues. In particular, we hope that the study of gamma oscillation frequency will provide a new window into the action of neurotransmitters such as GABA and how their function is compromised in diseases such as epilepsy and schizophrenia."

"We also believe that our findings could have important implications for the development, production and effectiveness of drugs to treat these and other neurological conditions."

More information: Suresh D Muthukumaraswamy, Richard A E Edden, Derek K Jones, Jennifer B Swettenham, Krish D Singh - Resting GABA concentration predicts peak gamma and fMRI amplitude in response to visual stimulation in humans was published in the Early Edition Section of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States (PNAS).

Source: Cardiff University (news : web)

Explore further: Lost memories might be able to be restored, new study indicates

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Yoga and elevated brain GABA levels

May 21, 2007

Researchers at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) and McLean Hospital have found that practicing yoga may elevate brain gamma-aminobutyric (GABA) levels, the brain's primary inhibitory neurotransmitter. The findings, ...

How schizophrenia develops: Major clues discovered

Oct 16, 2007

Schizophrenia may occur, in part, because of a problem in an intermittent on/off switch for a gene involved in making a key chemical messenger in the brain, scientists have found in a study of human brain tissue. The researchers ...

Recommended for you

Researchers unlock mystery of skin's sensory abilities

23 hours ago

Humans' ability to detect the direction of movement of stimuli in their sensory world is critical to survival. Much of this stimuli detection comes from sight and sound, but little is known about how the ...

Tackling neurotransmission precision

Dec 18, 2014

Behind all motor, sensory and memory functions, calcium ions are in the brain, making those functions possible. Yet neuroscientists do not entirely understand how fast calcium ions reach their targets inside ...

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.