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Increased local blood flow in response to changes in neural activity is critical for normal brain function. Takano and colleagues use an elegant new approach to study this effect in vivo, where all elements of the neurovascular unit are intact and functioning under normal physiological conditions. They show that astrocytes are important in translating neural activity into vasodilation via a mechanism involving COX1 metabolites. The cover image shows a section of cortex from a transgenic mouse expressing green fluorescent protein under an astrocyte promoter. Astrocytes are labeled white, neuronal processes are red, and nuclei are stained with a blue dye. (pp 159 and 260)
The exact embryonic origins of forebrain oligodendrocytes have been unclear. A new study addresses the question with elegant genetic fate mapping, and concludes that oligodendrocytes are generated in three distinct waves. Oligodendrocytes from later waves eventually replaced those generated in earlier waves, but if one wave was lost, the other waves could compensate.
Alpha-fetoprotein binds estrogens in the developing brain. A new paper shows that inhibiting estrogen rescues the brain masculinization found in female mice lacking this gene, suggesting that alpha-fetoprotein inhibits estrogen activity in females.
The Cav1.3 calcium channel is found on striatopallidal neurons expressing the D2 dopamine receptor. A new study finds that in an animal model of Parkinson disease, this channel is involved in degeneration of dendritic spines on striatal projection neurons.
Increased local blood flow in response to neural activity is critical for brain function and the basis for functional imaging. Takano et al. now show that in vivo, astrocytes are central in translating neural activity into vasodilation via a mechanism involving COX1 metabolites.
Visual attention in primates is influenced by microstimulation of the frontal eye fields. A study in Nature now reports similar effects on auditory information processing after microstimulation of a region of the forebrain that controls gaze direction in barn owls.