The concept that neurons can perform calculations and store information temporarily by exciting each other in a reciprocal way has been around for some time, but has been difficult to test experimentally. A team from the New York University School of Medicine presents evidence in the February issue of Nature Neuroscience, that may help to prove this intriguing hypothesis.

Aksay and colleagues worked on a group of neurons in the brainstem of goldfish that are involved in controlling eye movements. By recording individual neurons during spontaneous eye movements and by manipulating their activity, they found that sustained changes in the neuron firing rate are supported not by changes in pacemaker currents, but rather by persistent changes in the rate or amplitude of synaptic inputs (Nat Neurosci 2001, 4:184-193).

This is considered to be the neural basis for 'working memory', important in keeping track of transient changes in...

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