Nav: Home

Tone of voice matters in neuronal communication

September 28, 2020

WOODS HOLE, Mass. -- The dialogue between neurons is of critical importance for all nervous system activities, from breathing to sensing, thinking to running. Yet neuronal communication is so fast, and at such a small scale, that it is exceedingly difficult to explain precisely how it occurs. A preliminary observation in the Nature Neuroscience.

In 2016 Watanabe, then on the Neurobiology course faculty, introduced students to the debate over how many synaptic vesicles can fuse in response to one action potential (see this
2-minute video for a quick brush-up on neurotransmission). To probe this controversy, they used a "zap-and-freeze" imaging technology conceived by co-authors
But there was more. Back at Johns Hopkins, Kusick and Watanabe decided to walk through the neurotransmission process with zap-and-freeze, taking images every 3 milliseconds after the action potential. That's when they found an answer to an even larger question - how do neurons change the tone of their neurotransmission signal?

At any given time, only a few synaptic vesicles are in "docked" position, meaning loaded and ready to release neurotransmitter. Immediately after an action potential, the number of docked vesicles decreases by 40 percent, so after 2 to 3 action potentials, the docked vesicles would be depleted. (That is, their signal or "voice" would become weaker and weaker, as more action potentials are induced.) But they found that, within 14 milliseconds following an action potential, new vesicles are swiftly recruited to the docked pool that can fuse and release neurotransmitter, and this recruitment is transient such that neurotransmission can be strong or weak on a millisecond time scale. This is the first close-up look at neural communication that adds up from a temporal perspective.

"What this means is that we have identified a mechanism that neurons use to communicate through intonations," Watanabe says. "Each docked vesicle is like a word that neurons can use for communication at any given moment. It has been known for decades that neurons can speak more than a few words at a time, and they can also change the tone of these words. The question was how. We've shown that neurons continuously bring in more words, but by simply changing the number of vesicles, they can raise or lower the voice. If you are asking a question, you will raise the intonation at the end of a sentence - neurons do so by changing the number of docked vesicles ready to go."

The "zap and freeze" electron microscopy technology is the 21st-century version of the
-end-
The MBL Neurobiology course faculty and students co-authoring this paper include Jorgensen and Davis (University of Utah), Kristina Lippmann (University of Leipzg), Kandidia P. Adula (University of California, Los Angeles), and Edward J. Hujber and Thien Vu (University of Utah). Watanabe, who was a 2014
The Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) is dedicated to scientific discovery - exploring fundamental biology, understanding marine biodiversity and the environment, and informing the human condition through research and education. Founded in Woods Hole, Massachusetts in 1888, the MBL is a private, nonprofit institution and an affiliate of the

Marine Biological Laboratory

Related Neurons Articles:

Paying attention to the neurons behind our alertness
The neurons of layer 6 - the deepest layer of the cortex - were examined by researchers from the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University to uncover how they react to sensory stimulation in different behavioral states.
Trying to listen to the signal from neurons
Toyohashi University of Technology has developed a coaxial cable-inspired needle-electrode.
A mechanical way to stimulate neurons
Magnetic nanodiscs can be activated by an external magnetic field, providing a research tool for studying neural responses.
Extraordinary regeneration of neurons in zebrafish
Biologists from the University of Bayreuth have discovered a uniquely rapid form of regeneration in injured neurons and their function in the central nervous system of zebrafish.
Dopamine neurons mull over your options
Researchers at the University of Tsukuba have found that dopamine neurons in the brain can represent the decision-making process when making economic choices.
Neurons thrive even when malnourished
When animal, insect or human embryos grow in a malnourished environment, their developing nervous systems get first pick of any available nutrients so that new neurons can be made.
The first 3D map of the heart's neurons
An interdisciplinary research team establishes a new technological pipeline to build a 3D map of the neurons in the heart, revealing foundational insight into their role in heart attacks and other cardiac conditions.
Mapping the neurons of the rat heart in 3D
A team of researchers has developed a virtual 3D heart, digitally showcasing the heart's unique network of neurons for the first time.
How to put neurons into cages
Football-shaped microscale cages have been created using special laser technologies.
A molecule that directs neurons
A research team coordinated by the University of Trento studied a mass of brain cells, the habenula, linked to disorders like autism, schizophrenia and depression.
More Neurons News and Neurons Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: The Power Of Spaces
How do spaces shape the human experience? In what ways do our rooms, homes, and buildings give us meaning and purpose? This hour, TED speakers explore the power of the spaces we make and inhabit. Guests include architect Michael Murphy, musician David Byrne, artist Es Devlin, and architect Siamak Hariri.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#576 Science Communication in Creative Places
When you think of science communication, you might think of TED talks or museum talks or video talks, or... people giving lectures. It's a lot of people talking. But there's more to sci comm than that. This week host Bethany Brookshire talks to three people who have looked at science communication in places you might not expect it. We'll speak with Mauna Dasari, a graduate student at Notre Dame, about making mammals into a March Madness match. We'll talk with Sarah Garner, director of the Pathologists Assistant Program at Tulane University School of Medicine, who takes pathology instruction out of...
Now Playing: Radiolab

What If?
There's plenty of speculation about what Donald Trump might do in the wake of the election. Would he dispute the results if he loses? Would he simply refuse to leave office, or even try to use the military to maintain control? Last summer, Rosa Brooks got together a team of experts and political operatives from both sides of the aisle to ask a slightly different question. Rather than arguing about whether he'd do those things, they dug into what exactly would happen if he did. Part war game part choose your own adventure, Rosa's Transition Integrity Project doesn't give us any predictions, and it isn't a referendum on Trump. Instead, it's a deeply illuminating stress test on our laws, our institutions, and on the commitment to democracy written into the constitution. This episode was reported by Bethel Habte, with help from Tracie Hunte, and produced by Bethel Habte. Jeremy Bloom provided original music. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.     You can read The Transition Integrity Project's report here.