If you’re a footballer, a dancer, a mix-martial artist, or a sculpturist, you all depend on a complex system of movements, which needs to be up and down, left and right regulated in order to sustain a creative pattern.
From complex behaviors to everyday actions like scratching your nose, or picking up the phone, and even sitting still is controlled by these newly discovered microsystems in your body.
Millions of signals firing each second, billions of neurons directing those signals over trillion connections to its next or final destination. But how does the brain coordinate all those trillons of processes each day? The fancy answer is “sustained self-organized oscillatory activity in circulatory brain tissue”. This is the five dollar term for a circuitoid or a loop . Little loops of nerve tissue in your brain, which regulate an otherwise uncontrolable bombardment of signals.
Scientists from the Salk institute for biology in San Diego, California, constructed circuits of neurons from mouse embryonic stem cells. These stem cells were collected in a Petri dish and stimulated in order to grow to the type of tissue of which neurons, and subsequentaly the desired circuitoids consist of.
“Circuitoids can reveal the foundation for complex neural controls that lead to much more elaborate types of behaviors as we move through our world in a seamless kind of way” says Samuel Pfaff who holds the Helen McLoraine developmental chair in neurobiology.
– Proffesor Samuel Pfaff
Every movement in your body (except for reflexes) is a combination of neurons in your brain which initiate an action and other neurons which down regulate this action. This is how the body is able to sustain a steady pace of complex movements in a row without accidentally punching himself in the face in the process.
When a bunch of those circuits come together they are called central pattern generators (CPG’s). They work in sync, in order to create a rythmic pattern. These patterns facilitate repetitive movements necessary for running or breathing for example. CPG’s are extremely flexible. In split seconds they can adapt to the required amount of muscular effort.
“But we think that developing this kind of simple circuitry will allow us to extract some of the principles of how real brain circuits operate. With that basic information maybe we can begin to understand how things go awry in disease.” says Professor Pfaff.
Understanding these neuronal pathways could lead to groundbreaking discoveries in the treatment of horrendous neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, Epilepsy and Huntington’s disease.