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New research on the way the brain works may help to understand neurodegenerative diseases

An article by researchers from Bar-Ilan University published in "Scientific Reports" Offers a new understanding of the degenerative diseases in man

Ado Kanter. Photo: Faith Baginsky.
Professor Ado Kanter. Photo: Faith Baginsky.

A research group led by Prof. Ado Kanter from the Gonda Center for Brain Research and the Physics Department at Bar-Ilan University found that the hundred-year-old basic assumption on which we have relied until now to describe and analyze brain activity is wrong. In an article published today in "Scientific Reports", the researchers say that nerve cells react differently depending on the direction of the source of stimulation. For example, a stimulus coming from the left of the neuron does not add up with the stimulus coming from the right. In addition, it was found that stimulation from the left causes a different electrical pulse firing pattern of the nerve cell compared to stimulation coming from the right (bottom right figure).

A nerve cell, a neuron, is the basic computational element in the brain like the bit in a computer. The number of nerve cells in the brain is about a trillion, similar to the number of bits in today's computer disk containing terabits. For about a century, the basic operating principle of the nerve cell has been accepted, based on the fact that the cell sums up the potential induced on it (the effect of all the cells connected to it) and decides accordingly whether to fire an electrical pulse (bottom left figure).

The principle of operation of a nerve cell that has been accepted for about a century (left) and the principle that has just been discovered in which there is sensitivity to the direction of the stimulus (right). Courtesy of Bar-Ilan University.
The principle of operation of a nerve cell that has been accepted for about a century (left) and the principle that has just been discovered in which there is sensitivity to the direction of the stimulus (right). Courtesy of Bar-Ilan University.

The findings may lead to a new understanding of the degenerative diseases in humans. For example, impairment of a person's ability to distinguish between right hand and left hand is similar to the phenomena in which degenerative diseases manifest themselves in the patient's level of functioning.

Professor Kanter's group explains that the technology with which the discovery was made has actually existed since the XNUMXs, and in their estimation, the belief rooted in the scientific world for about a century is what prevented its discovery. In addition, this discovery should undermine one of the common research methods in brain research known as spike classification, which assumes that each neuron has a unique electronic signature. This method is a research tool in hundreds of laboratories around the world and in thousands of scientific publications, and its correctness is now in doubt.

One response

  1. My name is Orit. I am 45 years old. In the last year, I had a problem with my palate. It stopped functioning. Now I don't speak. When I spoke perfectly normally all my life, I want to know if there is a way to activate the palate in the brain?

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