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New Kind of Human Brain Cell Discovered

Sandipan Talukdar |
The analysis of the genes expressed in these neurons revealed that they are not present in mice, the animal extensively used as a model for humans.

Billions of neurons and numerous connections among them give rise to memory, thinking and also consciousness in the human brain. Apart from its gross numbers, different types of neurons with different activities and different function patterns, contribute to the complexity of the brain. Adding to the variety, a new type of neuron has recently been discovered. Named ‘rosehip neurons’, these neurons are being thought to be uniquely human. This type of neuron is found in the uppermost layer of the cortex of human brain. 

Neuroscience still strives to find out how one kind of neuron differs from another, both in structure and functions. In the advent of more sophisticated imaging techniques, like microscopies, visualisng the neurons has become easier and this has surely been proved advantageous. Nevertheless, deciphering the way a particular kind of neuron functions and how it differs from the other kinds is still a challenge.  Finding a whole new type of neuron and that too which is unique to the human brain is surely an achievement in this regard. 

In the effort to inventory human brain cells, scientists could spot this neuron in the slices of human brain tissue. The slices of the brain tissues were made from the brains of dead bodies donated for conducting research. This new type of cells is small and compact and looks bushy. Microscopic studies and analysis of the gene expression in these neurons were combined in deciphering the shape and character of the neuron. The analysis of the genes expressed in these neurons revealed that they are not present in mice, the animal extensively used as model for humans. 

The newly found ‘rosehip’ neuron belongs to the type of cell called ‘inhibitory neurons’. Inhibitory neurons function in a similar way the brakes in cars do. They offer inhibition to the effects of excitation of other neurons. Neuronal excitation is primarily the way neurons communicate among themselves, communications that are responsible for any kind of brain activities. But, excitatory effects can’t be infinite, otherwise the brain will go haywire. So, the excitatory and inhibitory processes work concertedly for a desirable brain functioning, and this is done by different types of brain cells, excitatory and inhibitory neurons. 

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