Study Finds Only a Small Portion of Synapses May Be Active During Neurotransmission

CUMC Newsroom
February 25, 2016


New optical technique, used in mice, offers detailed look at how dopamine works in the brain.

 

Columbia University scientists have developed a new optical technique to study how information is transmitted in the brains of mice. Using this method, they found that only a small portion of synapses—the connections between cells that control brain activity—may be active at any given time.

The study was published in the latest issue of Nature Neuroscience.

"Understanding how we accomplish complex tasks, such as learning and memory, requires us to look at how our brains transmit key signals—called neurotransmitters—across synapses from one neuron to another," said David Sulzer, PhD, professor of neurobiology in Psychiatry, Neurology, and Pharmacology at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC). "Older techniques only revealed what was going on in large groups of synapses. We needed a way to observe the neurotransmitter activity of individual synapses, to help us better understand their intricate behavior." [read more]