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Brain Wave - Better knowledge of neuro signals gives new insight into brain disorders

Posted Mar 21 2011 12:38pm

Scientists at the University of Edinburgh have identified a protein crucial for maintaining the health and function of the nerve fibres that keeps the transmission of messages within the brain working smoothly. 

This research could help to improve the understanding of disorders such as epilepsy, dementia, multiple sclerosis and stroke. In these neurodegenerative disorders, electrical impulses from the brain are disrupted, leading to an inability to control movement which can also cause the muscles to waste away.  

The brain works like an electrical circuit, which sends impulses along nerve fibres. The fibres can measure up to a meter long, but the area covered by the segment of nerve that controls transmission of messages is no bigger than the width of a human hair.

The study identified that the protein Nfasc186 is crucial for maintaining the health and function of the segment of nerve fibres called the axon initial segment (AIS). The AIS and the protein within it, is important in ensuring the nerve impulse has the right properties to properly convey the intended message. The identification of this protein is central in identifying how the signals within the brain work, and therefore our knowledge of the critical processes involved in neurodegenerative disorders.

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