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Rhythm of Life

Neural circuitry and mechanism underlying rhythmic movements identified for first time in mammals

05 October 2022

Rhythm of Life

Whether you dance like a drunken dad or trained professional, you have rhythm in your bones. It underlies fundamental actions from walking to breathing. This rhythm comes from bursts of activity in brain circuits called central oscillators. These have proven hard to pinpoint and study, but new research has fully described one such circuit in mice. The collection of neurons (brain cells, pictured, green) control the regular swishing of a mouse’s whiskers, called whisking. When one neuron sparks into life, it inhibits those around it (with an inhibitor shown in red), which ultimately creates a coherent rhythm across the network, resulting in the regular movement. The scientists traced the neurons back from the whisker muscles, and found a cluster of cells all expressing a protein called parvalbumin (blue) leading the dance. This first isolation of a mammal oscillator could be a step towards understanding a fundamental aspect of our bodies.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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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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