New findings are challenging the current understanding of how non-neural brain cells contribute to brain signaling, by showing that calcium levels in these cells do not affect synaptic activity.
An astrocyte
Image: Wikimedia commons,
The results appear in this week's Science. In the past couple of years, the idea that these non-neural brain cells, known as glial cells, participate in neurotransmission "had been widely accepted," linkurl:Frank Kirchhoff,; a cellular and molecular neurobiologist at the Max Planck Institute for Experimental Medicine, who did not participate in the research, wrote in an email to The Scientist. "Therefore, the scientific community was rather surprised to see" that calcium levels in glial cells have no affect on neurotransmission in the hippocampus, added Kirchhoff. For decades, scientists believed that astrocytes -- the major glial cells of the central nervous system -- only served nutritional and structural support to neurons. But over the...

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