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AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 28, Number 2, 2019


First Whole-Brain Map of Inhibitory Neurons Reveals Surprises

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Researchers at Penn State College of Medicine and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory have reported the first-ever quantitative whole-brain map of inhibitory neurons in the mouse brain. These brain cells play a crucial role in regulating response to stimuli and have been widely implicated in many psychiatric conditions.

The researchers found surprising differences in the number of inhibitory neurons in different areas of the brain and in the brains of female and male mice.

Neurons operating within the central nervous system can be roughly divided into two major cell types: excitatory and inhibitory neurons. Excitatory neurons are the main carriers of information, much like an accelerator in a car, while inhibitory neurons control the activity of excitatory neurons—like the car’s brake.

Processing external stimuli and generating appropriate behavioral responses requires a fine balance between these excitatory and inhibitory neurons. Inhibitory neurons are particularly critical for proper brain processing. For example, impairment of these brain cells has been linked to brain disorders including autism and schizophrenia.

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