Spinal cord nerve cells branching through the body resemble trees with limbs fanning out in every direction. But this image can also be used to tell the story of how these neurons–their jobs becoming more specialized over time–arose through developmental and evolutionary history. Professor Samuel Pfaff and graduate student Peter Osseward, co-first author of the study, have, for the first time, traced the development of spinal cord neurons using genetic signatures and revealed how different subtypes of the cells may have evolved and ultimately function to regulate our body movements. The findings offer researchers new ways of classifying and tagging subsets of spinal cord cells for further study, using genetic markers that differentiate branches of the cells’ family tree.
Inhibitory neurons target the weakest-responding neurons in the brain to facilitate transmission of signals
A new study by Professor Tatyana Sharpee and first author and postdoctoral researcher Wei-Mien Hsu shows that inhibitory neurons do more than just inhibit neuron activity like an off-switch; they actually increase the amount of information transmitted through the nervous system when it needs to be flexible. The work could help scientists better understand and treat conditions such as anxiety and attention deficit disorders.
- Building a More Resilient WorldThe world is facing an array of health-related crises: COVID-19 and other infectious diseases, climate change, neurodegenerative conditions, cancers and many more. To tackle these daunting challenges, the Institute is embarking on a philanthropic campaign to focus on resilience: the biological adaptability that mitigates the effects of aging, resists disease and restores global wellness.
- Susan Kaech – How T cells rememberSalk Professor Susan Kaech, director of the NOMIS Center for Immunobiology and Microbial Pathogenesis, has made it her mission to gain a better understanding of how T cells form, how they exchange molecular signals with the surrounding tissue, and how we can use this knowledge to prevent or treat infections.
- Carl Procko – Lessons from carnivorous plantsStaff Scientist Carl Procko studies Venus flytraps and their close relatives, Sundew plants, to gain insight into the ultra-fast biochemistry of plants and how they can sense touch. It doesn’t hurt that these bug-eating plants are a great way to get kids—and adults—interested in science.
- Nuttida Rungratsameetaweemana – Drawing from memoriesNuttida Rungratsameetaweemana, a Salk postdoctoral researcher who studies neuroscience, was introduced to the perplexities of the brain at age 14 during a chance encounter in a hospital waiting room.