Researchers at MedUni Vienna’s Center for Brain Research report they have identified specific cells that regulate the transmission of information between brain areas. The new findings can provide insights into neuropsychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia and autism.

The study is published in the journal Science, in a paper titled, “Neurogliaform cells dynamically decouple neuronal synchrony between brain areas.”

The researchers sought to determine how neuronal circuits orchestrate and maintain balance while undergoing constant change.

“Effective communication across brain areas requires distributed neuronal networks to dynamically synchronize or decouple their ongoing activity,” wrote the researchers. “GABAergic interneurons lock ensembles to network oscillations, but there remain questions regarding how synchrony is actively disengaged to allow for new communication partners. We recorded the activity of identified interneurons in the CA1 hippocampus of awake mice. Neurogliaform cells (NGFCs)—which provide GABAergic inhibition to distal dendrites of pyramidal cells—strongly coupled their firing to those gamma oscillations synchronizing local networks with cortical inputs.”

“In our preclinical experiments, we have now discovered that neurogliaform cells, by briefly inhibiting other cell types, ensure that current perception and memories of past experiences can be processed both separately and also in combination,” explained study author Balint Lasztoczi, PhD, associate professor, MedUni Vienna.

In disorders such as schizophrenia and autism, this organization is impaired. These new findings that uncover the function of neurogliaform cells may lead to the development of new treatment options.

The researchers now plan to investigate how the activity of neurogliaform cells can be influenced to form the starting point for new drugs and therapeutic options for neuropsychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia and autism.

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