UCLA scientists teach cultured brain cells to keep time

Jun 15, 2010

The ability to tell time is fundamental to how humans interact with each other and the world. Timing plays an important role, for example, in our ability to recognize speech patterns and to create music.

Patterns are an essential part of timing. The human easily learns patterns, allowing us to recognize familiar patterns of shapes, like faces, and timed patterns, like the rhythm of a song. But exactly how the brain keeps time and learns patterns remains a mystery.

In this three-year study, UCLA scientists attempted to unravel the mystery by testing whether networks of kept alive in culture could be "trained" to keep time. The team stimulated the cells with simple patterns - two stimuli separated by different intervals lasting from a twentieth of a second up to half a second.

After two hours of training, the team observed a measurable change in the cellular networks' response to a single input. In the networks trained with a short interval, the network's activity lasted for a short period of time. Conversely, in the networks trained with a long interval, network activity lasted for a longer amount of time.

The UCLA findings are the first to suggest that networks of brain cells in a can learn to generate simple timed intervals. The research sheds light on how the brain tells time and will enhance scientists' understanding of how the brain works.

Explore further: New mapping approach lets scientists zoom in and out as the brain processes sound

More information: The research appears in the June 13 edition of Nature Neuroscience, now online at www.nature.com/neuro/journal/v… nt/full/nn.2579.html

Provided by University of California - Los Angeles

5 /5 (1 vote)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

It's only a game of chance

Mar 27, 2007

The validity of a leading theory that has held a glimmer of hope for unraveling the intricacies of the brain has just been called into question. Dr. Ilan Lampl of the Weizmann Institute of Science's Neurobiology Department ...

Paying attention sets off symphony of cell synchronization

Dec 20, 2006

You know the sensation. When something has your full attention you see it vividly. And when you don't pay attention, you're liable to miss something important. Now a new Northwestern University study sheds light on how attention ...

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.

Bees recognize human faces using feature configuration

Jan 29, 2010

Going about their day-to-day business, bees have no need to be able to recognise human faces. Yet in 2005, when Adrian Dyer from Monash University trained the fascinating insects to associate pictures of human ...

Recommended for you

Birthday matters for wiring-up the brain's vision centers

8 hours ago

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have evidence suggesting that neurons in the developing brains of mice are guided by a simple but elegant birth order rule that allows them to find ...

How is depression related to dementia?

Jul 30, 2014

A new study by neuropsychiatric researchers at Rush University Medical Center gives insight into the relationship between depression and dementia. The study is published in the July 30, 2014, online issue of Neurology, the me ...

User comments : 0