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Like the similar physical appearance of the seven crabs in this image, the neuronal output of the crab stomatogastric ganglion is largely conserved across animals. In contrast, Schulz and colleagues report that the expression and conductance of ion channels mediating this output can be highly variable in neurons of the same class in different crabs. Comparisons of these conductances within and across animals and neurons also shed light on the constraints imposed on possible solutions for a given network behavior. p 356)
Many neurons, particularly inhibitory neurons in motor areas, express ion channels that cause them to fire rapidly and regularly without input. A paper now presents evidence that an inherited ataxia due to mutation in a P/Q-type calcium channel gene results from compromised pacemaking in cerebellar Purkinje neurons, suggesting a possible therapy.
Stem cells are defined by their ability to self-renew. Adult brain stem cells divide slowly, and it is unclear how their division is regulated. A new study identifies PEDF as a growth factor that promotes adult stem cell self-renewal.
The suprachiasmatic nucleus is the main circadian pacemaker. Another oscillator entrains behavior to food availability, but its location has been a mystery. A new study suggests the dorsomedial hypothalamic nucleus as a possibility.
Activity in early visual processing areas is often thought to reflect physical input from the retina, rather than conscious perception. A new study now finds that activity in V1 corresponds to perceived rather than actual object size.