Role of noise in neurons

May 04, 2007

Addressing a current issue in neuroscience, Aldo Faisal and Simon Laughlin from Cambridge University investigate the reliability of thin axons for transmitting information. They show that noise effects in ion channels in the brain are much larger than previously assumed – meaning the fidelity of transmission is compromised.

Neurons in the cerebral cortex of the brain can have a wiring density of up to 4km per mm3 by using incredibly thin axons as wires, with an average diameter of 0.3 micrometers. Although, as in computer chips, this miniaturization economizes on space and energy, it increases the noise introduced by thermodynamic fluctuations in a neuron's voltage-gated ion channels. Axons use action potential (AP) to transmit information fast and reliably to synapses, but the reliability of transmissions down fibers of less than 0.5 micrometers in diameter was unknown until this paper.

Using detailed models of rodent and squid axons and stochastic simulations, the authors performed experiments, now published in PLoS Computational Biology, which took several months to simulate a few milliseconds of real time in the brain. They show how conduction along such thin axons is affected by the probabilistic nature of voltage-gated ion channels (channel noise). Channel noise destroys information in the AP, and they conclude that these effects are much larger than previously supposed and therefore must be taken into account in any future studies of neural coding and the reliability of synaptic transmission.

Source: Public Library of Science

Explore further: Researchers discover how intestinal cells build nutrient-absorbing surface

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Rewiring a damaged brain

Sep 27, 2010

Researchers in the Midwest are developing microelectronic circuitry to guide the growth of axons in a brain damaged by an exploding bomb, car crash or stroke. The goal is to rewire the brain connectivity and bypass the region ...

New insights into growth factor's role in brain development

Feb 02, 2009

New research sheds light on a neural growth factor called proBDNF, finding that it is present and potentially active during the perinatal period when the brain's circuitry and memory-encoding regions are being refined. Led ...

MIT reveals inner lives of red blood cells

Oct 23, 2006

For the first time, researchers at MIT can see every vibration of a cell membrane, using a technique that could one day allow scientists to create three-dimensional images of the inner workings of living cells.

New technique reveals inner lives of red blood cells

Oct 17, 2006

For the first time, researchers at MIT can see every vibration of a cell membrane, using a technique that could one day allow scientists to create three-dimensional images of the inner workings of living cells.

Recommended for you

Revealing camouflaged bacteria

44 minutes ago

A research team at the Biozentrum of the University of Basel has discovered an protein family that plays a central role in the fight against the bacterial pathogen Salmonella within the cells. The so cal ...

EU must take urgent action on invasive species

3 hours ago

The EU must take urgent action to halt the spread of invasive species that are threatening native plants and animals across Europe, according to a scientist from Queen's University Belfast.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Revealing camouflaged bacteria

A research team at the Biozentrum of the University of Basel has discovered an protein family that plays a central role in the fight against the bacterial pathogen Salmonella within the cells. The so cal ...

EU must take urgent action on invasive species

The EU must take urgent action to halt the spread of invasive species that are threatening native plants and animals across Europe, according to a scientist from Queen's University Belfast.

Progress in the fight against quantum dissipation

(Phys.org) —Scientists at Yale have confirmed a 50-year-old, previously untested theoretical prediction in physics and improved the energy storage time of a quantum switch by several orders of magnitude. ...