New technologies are allowing us to explore the brain as never before. We are entering a new era in neuroscience where our knowledge of the brain is beginning to match the urgent need to prevent and treat diseases of the brain.



Researchers trace spinal neuron family tree

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.

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Cell Reports

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.

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