Scientists think they've identified a previously unknown form of neural communication that self-propagates across Brain Tissue, and can leap wirelessly from neurons in one section of brain tissue to another -- even if they've been surgically severed. The discovery offers some radical new insights about the way neurons might be talking to one another, via a mysterious process unrelated to conventionally understood mechanisms, such as synaptic transmission, axonal transport, and gap junction connections. ScienceAlert reports: "We don't know yet the 'So what?' part of this discovery entirely," says neural and biomedical engineer Dominique Durand from Case Western Reserve University. "But we do know that this seems to be an entirely new form of communication in the brain, so we are very excited about this." To that end, Durand and his team investigated Slow Periodic Activity in vitro, studying the brain waves in This neural activity can actually be modulated - strengthened or blocked - by applying weak electrical fields and could be an analogue form of another cell communication method, called ephaptic coupling. The team's most radical finding was that these electrical fields can activate neurons through a complete gap in severed brain tissue, when the two pieces remain in close physical proximity. slices extracted from decapitated mice. What they found was that slow periodic activity can generate electric fields which in turn activate neighboring cells, constituting a form of neural communication without chemical synaptic transmission or gap junctions. "To ensure that the slice was completely cut, the two pieces of tissue were separated and then rejoined while a clear gap was observed under the surgical microscope," the authors explain in their paper. "The slow hippocampal periodic activity could indeed generate an event on the other side of a complete cut through the whole slice." The findings are reported in The Journal of Physiology.
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