Timing is everything: scientists control rapid re-wiring of brain circuits using patterned visual stimulation
In a new study, published in this week’s issue of the journal Science, researchers show for the first time how the brain re-wires and fine-tunes its connections differently depending on the relative timing of sensory stimuli. In most neuroscience textbooks today, there is a widely held model that explains how nerve circuits might refine their connectivity based on patterned firing of brain cells, but it has not previously been directly observed in real time.
Researchers from McGill University and the University of Montreal have identified a crucial link between protein synthesis and autism spectrum disorders (ASD), which can bolster new therapeutic avenues. Regulation of protein synthesis, also termed mRNA translation, is the process by which cells manufacture proteins. This mechanism is involved in all aspects of cell and organism function. A new study in mice has found that abnormally high synthesis of a group of neuronal proteins called neuroligins results in symptoms similar to those diagnosed in ASD. The study also reveals that autism-like behaviors can be rectified in adult mice with compounds inhibiting protein synthesis, or with gene-therapy targeting neuroligins. Their results are published in the journal Nature.