Researchers from the University of Arkansas have observed an unexpected division of labor among the neurons in the motor cortex of the brain — a key finding that can help scientists explain how the brain controls the body.
For the study, neurons in the motor cortex of rats were observed. These neurons fall into two groups: “externally focused” and “internally focused.”
Externally focused neurons communicate with and control different parts of the body whereas internally focused neurons communicate only with each other and don’t send signals to other parts of the body.
On increasing the inhibition of neurons in the motor cortex, researchers found that externally focused neurons switched their behavior to internally focused ones.
This implies that signals sent to the muscles from the motor cortex to the brain can be corrupted by ‘disturbing’ internal signals that are normally not present.
Such alterations in inhibitory signaling are usually found in brain disorders. So, these findings can provide us with more insights into several neurological disorders and help in their treatment.
For instance, Rett syndrome is a rare and severe neurological disorder which is associated with the increase in inhibition in neurons.
The research team plans to further research the application of these findings for the treatment of Rett syndrome.