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Israeli Scientists Find Link between Electrical Voltage and Brain Functions


A new study froms scentists at Tel Aviv University shows how electric voltages operate in the brain. So, all those old horror movies like Frankenstein were right. Remember how they all showed a mad scientists using electricity or some sort of electric field to stimulate a brain or revive the dead? Well, there really is electricity in the brain and scientists continue to learn more about how it works.

But no, it is not like in the Matrix movies: the human brain cannot be used as a battery. And no, we cannot revive a person by connecting jumper cables to the brain like when a car battery dies. We are talking about a different kind of electricity here.

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So, what are we talking about here?

The TAU researchers found, for the first time, what they describe as a direct and significant link between changes in G-protein-coupled receptors and the brain’s ability to adapt to external changes. The study, published recently in the  journal Nature Communications, was conducted by Dr. Moshe Parnas and his team from the Sackler Faculty of Medicine and the Sagol School of Neuroscience at Tel Aviv University.

The researchers explain that the human brain has a large amount of G protein-coupled receptors (GPCR). G proteins, also known as guanine nucleotide-binding proteins, which help cells receive signals that come from external stimuli.

Activation of these proteins causes a chain of chemical reactions within the cell. These proteins are very common in the brain and are involved in almost every brain activity, such as learning and memory.

The nerve cells in which GPCRs are common, experience changes in their electrical voltage. But science has not yet determined if the voltage dependence of GPCR proteins has a physiological significance that affects brain activity, our perception, and behavior. In fact, the scientific mindset was that this voltage dependence has no physiological significance.

So electric shocks will not, or probably will not, effect a person’s personality.

This protein is also what helps us get used to strange odors. Ever wonder why you get used to a bad smell after a while?

The intensity of a person’s reaction to the odor decreases as a result of continuous exposure to it. Thanks to this mechanism, explain the researchers, a few minutes after entering a room containing a distinct odor – we stop smelling it.

Dr. Parnas explained, “Nerve cells are able to communicate with each other and brain flexibility is expressed in the ability of nerve cells to set up new connections with each other and change existing connections – and thus influence behavior. Muscarinic Type A protein is involved in strengthening the bond between nerve cells, and strengthening of this bond causes fruit flies to get used to the odor and indicates normal brain flexibility.”

The researchers found that disabling the voltage sensor actually causes uncontrolled brain flexibility and consequently the process of excessive and uncontrolled habituating to an odor. Dr. Parnas added, “We found that the receptor in question is very much involved in strengthening the intercellular bond in the brain, much more than what we thought. When we turned off its voltage sensor, the connection between the nerve cells became too strong.”
According to Dr. Parnas, “These findings change our perception of G-protein-coupled receptors. To date no reference has been made to the effect of electrical voltage on their function and its implications on brain flexibility and conduct. These receptors are involved in many systems and brain diseases and we have now discovered a control mechanism upon which an attempt at drug treatment can be based. Following this, we are continuing to investigate additional receptors. It is reasonable to assume that their dependence on the electrical voltage is important in other systems and not only in the olfactory system.”



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