Scientists cast light on the brain's social cells

6/25/2014

Scientists cast light on the brain's social cells

Scientists cast light on the brain's social cells

By Geoffrey Mohan

Los Angeles Times

(MCT) — Picture yourself hovering over an alien city with billions of blinking lights of thousands of types, with the task of figuring out which ones are connected, which way the electricity flows and how that translates into nightlife.

Even in an era rapidly becoming known as the heyday of neuroscience, tracing the biochemical signaling among billions of neurons deep in the brain has remained elusive and baffling.

A team of Stanford University researchers managed to map out one such connection, buried inside the brain of a living, moving mammal as they manipulated its behavior. The feat offers an unprecedented close-up of the genesis of social behavior on a cellular level, and could offer insights into psychiatric puzzles such as autism, depression and anxiety.

"It's a new kind of data that no one has been able to get before — a single kind of cell projecting from one deep brain area to another deep brain area during behavior," said Stanford bioengineer and neuroscientist Karl Deisseroth, senior author of the study published online this week in the journal Cell.

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