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Synchronised or independent neurons: this is how the brain encodes information

23 September 2019
A new study by SISSA has shed light on several mechanisms behind this phenomenon

"Like a book in which the single pages are not all different but carry small portions of common text, or like a group of people who whistle a very similar tune”: this is how our brain cells work, say scientists. It is the phenomenon of “co-relation”, in which individual neurons do not always act as independent units in receiving and transmitting information but as a group of individuals with similar and simultaneous actions. Observing the electrical activity of these cells in the laboratory, together with the use of computerised mathematical models, a group of researchers led by Professor Michele Giugliano of SISSA has shed light for the first time on the cellular mechanisms behind these correlations.

In the study, the scientists examined excitatory neurons, those intended to promote the electrical activity of other neurons, and inhibitory neurons, intended to suppress their activity. “Our discovery tells us that excitatory cells tend to prefer individuality and to reduce the redundancy of their own messages, while the inhibitory cells act together as one. This allows us to add a new piece to the understanding of how neurons organise information in the brain. The information is always represented by the electrical activity of groups of cells “explains Professor Giugliano. The study, which has seen the involvement of SISSA of Trieste and the University of Antwerp, Belgium, and of Pittsburgh, USA, has just been published in The Journal of Neuroscience (Image: Colin Behrens for Pixabay)