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Performing complex tasks under stress activates hidden neuronal circuit in brain


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bartelomeus

    bartelomeus


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Geplaatst op 20 april 2010 - 14:28

Did you ever wonder how you are able to perform complex tasks -- even under stress? And how do emotions and memories mould your ability to live your everyday lives? The answer is just beginning to be understood and lies in hidden circuits in the brain.

The human brain contains billions of neurons that build trillions of connections making it very complex to study behaviour at the level of the single neuron. Therefore, the Pocock laboratory uses the simple nervous system of the microscopic worm, Caenorhabditis elegans, to model how our environment modifies gene function, neuronal circuitry and behaviour. Using C. elegans, which contains just 302 neurons, Dr Pocock has identified a hidden neuronal circuit that modulates sensory perception under stress. Specifically, this work discovered that physiological detection of hypoxic (low oxygen) stress results in the activation of a hidden neuronal circuit involving the neuromodulators serotonin and the neuropeptide Y receptor.

This work implicates that mechanisms coupling hypoxia, serotonin and neuropeptide signaling also modifies behaviour in mammals. In fact, hypoxic stress enhances serotonin and neuropeptide production in specific regions of the mammalian brain, however, the functional output of this is poorly understood.

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