Chatter between neurons can help protect them from the ravages of free radical damage, according to a linkurl:report; published today (Mar 23) in __Nature__. Free radical, or oxidative, damage besets neurons as they linkurl:age; normally or degenerate due to chronic disorders, such as Alzheimer's or Parkinson's, or in acute events, such as strokes. University of Edinburgh neuroscientist linkurl:Giles Hardingham; and colleagues found that N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors, whose activation is critical to synaptic transmission, modulate a web of antioxidant pathways, preventing or reversing the effects of oxidative damage on nerve cells. "This was the first time that it was seen that synaptic activity can regulate the vulnerability of neurons to oxidative stress," Hardingham told __The Scientist__. Hardingham and his team suppressed normal NMDA receptor activity in rat and mouse neurons and tracked cell survival and the downstream transcription of genes involved in oxidation-reduction pathways. They found that NMDA receptor activity enhances...

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