Study Finds New Mechanism to Control Information Flow in the Brain
Specialized nerve cells, known as somatostatin-expressing (Sst) interneurons, in the outer part of the mammalian brain (or cerebral cortex) — play a key role in controlling how information flows in the brain when it is awake and alert. This is the finding of a study by a team of neuroscientists at NYU Langone Medical Center and its Neuroscience Institute. In experiments in mice, the researchers found that the activity of Sst interneurons changes when the animal goes from not moving its whiskers (in a resting state) to moving them (in an active state), a process known as whisking. Specifically, the team discovered that the cortex contains a diverse set of Sst interneuron subtypes that reach into different layers of the cortex. Some of the subtypes turn on while others turn off during whisking. The Sst interneurons then either selectively block or encourage the flow of information in ways that the researchers believe helps the animals make informed decisions and guide their movements.
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