the beat with our brain cells
we grow older, we become more forgetful and absentminded,
but what is really going on in our brains as the years
pass by? In the first in vitro research of its kind into
ageing, two Leeds scientists are looking at how brain
cells transmit information, in the hope of finding treatments
for diseases like Alzheimer's.
of the brain communicate with each other by producing
distinctive electrical 'beats' in rhythmical patterns
which can be picked up by an electroencephalogram (EEG)
different kinds of brain activity, we produce different
rhythms: the slow delta band rhythm during sleep; the
theta band when our brains deal with spacial navigation.
Neurophysiologists Eberhard Buhl and Miles Whittington
are interested in the gamma band, used when the brain
is bringing together sensory input from different areas
Ð such as sight, sound and memory Ð to create one picture.
Known as feature binding, it is vitally important for
our cognitive functions.
research Ð Eberhard Buhl (above left) and Miles
Buhl: "EEG tests allow us to watch as the brain processes
information, track the signals and understand them, but
we are still not clear how they are made. By combining
different strands of research computer models and
in vitro signals we aim to understand these processes
and find a therapy for age-related diseases."
scientists are working with small groups of nerve cells
between 10,000 and 100,000 recreating the
signals in vitro to see how they are produced, and how
they change as the cells age, in the presence of disease
or when chemicals are added.
Whittington: "During diseases such as Alzheimer's, brain
cells produce weaker signals, reducing effective communication
between different parts of the brain. There is very little
evidence to show what happens in the cell to weaken these
signals, but we hope our research will provide an answer."
Professor Roger Traub of New York University, the scientists
are also creating a computer model of brain cell networks,
reducing the parameters to build up a clearer picture
of what happens in the cell.
research is funded jointly by the Medical Research Council
and Glaxo Smithkline Beecham.