NMDA receptor–BK channel coupling regulates synaptic plasticity in the barrel cortex
© Science Photo Library - ANDRZEJ WOJCICKI/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images
The brain is constantly rewiring itself in response to new sensory input. Channels in the branch-like ends of neurons known as big potassium (BK) channels make it harder for synapses to strengthen connections between neurons that fire together in the brains of mice.
Neurons can rewire themselves because the connections between them can become stronger and weak with time — a process known as synaptic plasticity. Receptors for the molecule N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) play a crucial role in synaptic plasticity because they can detect when two neurons on either side of a synapse fire at the same time.
Now, six researchers from University of La Laguna in Tenerife, Spain, have found that BK channels regulate this synaptic plasticity in about 40% of synapses in the barrel cortex — the brain region in mice that processes sensory data from whiskers. Specifically, the team found that BK channels raise the threshold for triggering plasticity at synapses.
- PNAS 118, e2107026118 (2021). doi: 10.1073/pnas.2107026118
|University of La Laguna (ULL), Spain||1.00|