Discovering the Autonomous Regulation Neuronal Excitability

How neurons regulate their excitability autonomously

Nerve cells are able to regulate their sensitivity towards incoming signals on their own. In a new study, led by the University of Bonn, a mechanism has been discovered that can do this. In the research, the Max Planck Institute for Neurobiology of Behavior and the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases were involved. Cell Reports has published the results.

If you’ve ever recorded a message on your cell phone, you know how important volume is. Shouting at the microphone will result in a recording that is distorted and unclear. Whispering also isn’t a good option, as the recording will be too quiet and difficult to understand. Sound engineers make sure that every concert or talk show has the perfect sound. They adjust each microphone’s volume to match the input.

Neurons in the brain are also able to fine-tune sensitivity and can do this autonomously. The University of Bonn, in collaboration with the University Hospital Bonn, has conducted a new study that shows how this is done. Participants studied nerve cell networks involved in other senses such as vision, hearing, and touch. The first thing that happens is the stimulus travels through the thalamus. This structure is located deep within the center of your brain. Then, the stimulus is sent to the cerebral cortex where it’s further processed.