August 28, 2005

Inhibitory System Controls Cortex Activity

This new research study out of Yale University suggests some important implications for those dealing with schizophrenia, epilepsy, or other psychiatric disorders.

The brain's inhibitory systems are essential for controlling the pattern of activity in the cortex, which has important implications for the mechanisms of cortical operation, according to a Yale School of Medicine study in Neuron.

There are two cell types in the brain's cortex, excitatory and inhibitory. The cortex has a tendency to make recurrent excitation, and, if not properly controlled by the inhibitory system, this could lead to seizures, as is seen in epilepsy.

"Temporal precision in spike timing is important in cortical function, interactions, and plasticity," McCormick said. "We found that, during periods of recurrent network activity, cortical pyramidal cells in vivo and in vitro receive strong barrages of both excitatory and inhibitory postsynaptic potentials, with the inhibitory potentials synchronously controlling the timing of action potentials."

McCormick said the spike timing is important for fine perception and may underlie problems in the nervous system and in psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia, where the timing problem might cause confusion. These results therefore broaden the influence of the local inhibitory networks in the cortex from one of simple regulation of excitability to one of also controlling cognitive function.

Source: Neuron 47: 1-13 (August 4, 2005)

Yale University


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