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Mapping how neurons control their activity in the brain

26 January 2022

Imaging your Inhibitions

There are 10 times as many neurons in your brain as there are people on the planet. It’s, therefore, understandably difficult to map these nerve cells. Researchers now take on this challenge by focusing on a group that reduce the activity of other neurons, namely inhibitory neurons. Using large-scale electron microscopy, they mapped inhibitory neurons called chandelier cells, which make connections called synapses with pyramidal neurons, in part of the mouse brain responsible for vision. The images were reconstructed into 3D models (pictured), which were used to help simulate the effects of chandelier cell (red) synapses on the activity of pyramidal neurons (grey). They found a particular type of synapse, axo-axonic synapses, were especially effective at reducing the activity of pyramidal neurons that were simultaneously being stimulated and inhibited. This comprehensive mapping sheds light on how neurons control their activity in the brain.

Written by Lux Fatimathas

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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