Research shows brain cells make clever connections

Jun 10, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- University of Queensland research has revealed that growing nerve fibres may navigate by using a clever mathematical trick.

Associate Professor Geoff Goodhill, from UQ's Queensland Institute and School of Mathematics and Physics, led the interdisciplinary team of neuroscientists and mathematicians behind the research.

They carefully measured how the guidance of nerve fibres from rat brains changed as the cues directing their growth varied, and showed these changes could be accurately predicted using a .

Most interestingly, this model assumed nerve fibres make decisions in the cleverest possible way.

“This means that individual nerve fibres can be incredibly smart in the way they sift through information in their environment to decide where to grow,” Dr Goodhill said.

The research paper, published this month in the scientific journal the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is the first time anyone has quantitatively predicted how nerve fibres behave.

Dr Goodhill said these results could be important for understanding how brain wiring can go wrong during development and how to help brain connections regenerate after injury.

“Getting the wiring right is absolutely critical for brains to function properly,” he said.

“The mathematical model now allows us to predict what will happen in any situation, not just the ones we've already measured.”

Dr Goodhill's team is now working on how nerve fibres turn their smart decisions into smart actions.

The research paper A Bayesian model predicts the response of axons to molecular gradients appears in the 8 June issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Source: The University of Queensland

Explore further: Could ibuprofen be an anti-aging medicine? Popular over-the counter drug extends lifespan in yeast, worms and flies

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Study provides new insights into brain organization

Aug 01, 2006

Scientists have provided new insights into how and why the brain is organised - knowledge which could eventually inform diagnosis of and treatments for conditions like Alzheimer's disease and autism.

Signals from stroking have direct route to brain

Apr 14, 2009

Nerve signals that tell the brain that we are being slowly stroked on the skin have their own specialised nerve fibres in the skin. This is shown by a new study from the Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, Sweden. ...

Milestone in the regeneration of brain cells

Aug 20, 2007

The majority of cells in the human brain are not nerve cells but star-shaped glia cells, the so called “astroglia”. “Glia means “glue”, explains Götz. “As befits their name, until now these cells have been regarded ...

Gas on your mind

Dec 11, 2006

Scientists at the University of Leicester are to gain a greater insight into the workings of the human mind…through the study of a snail’s brain.

Recommended for you

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

gmurphy
not rated yet Jun 10, 2009
this article is pretty big on style, sparse on actual substance, why not more on the wiring algorithm?

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.