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The mechanobiology of brain function

Abstract

All cells are influenced by mechanical forces. In the brain, force-generating and load-bearing proteins twist, turn, ratchet, flex, compress, expand and bend to mediate neuronal signalling and plasticity. Although the functions of mechanosensitive proteins have been thoroughly described in classical sensory systems, the effects of endogenous mechanical energy on cellular function in the brain have received less attention, and many working models in neuroscience do not currently integrate principles of cellular mechanics. An understanding of cellular-mechanical concepts is essential to allow the integration of mechanobiology into ongoing studies of brain structure and function.

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Figure 1: Mechanical forces are generated and transduced in neurons.
Figure 2: Ion channel activity is sensitive to membrane mechanics.
Figure 3: Functional implications of mechanical force transduction between synaptic compartments.
Figure 4: Experimental approaches useful to the study of mechanobiology in neuroscience.

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Acknowledgements

W.J.T is supported by funds from a US Department of Defense grant from the US Army Research, Development, and Engineering Command (RDECOM W911NF-09-0431), a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency Young Faculty Award (DARPA N66001-10-1-4032) and a McKnight Technological Innovation in Neuroscience Award.

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Tyler, W. The mechanobiology of brain function. Nat Rev Neurosci 13, 867–878 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1038/nrn3383

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