News of the WeekNeuroscience

Synchronizing the Brain's Signals

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Science  22 Jun 2001:
Vol. 292, Issue 5525, pp. 2233
DOI: 10.1126/science.292.5525.2233

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Sometimes neurons get so excited that they fire in harmony, but neuroscientists aren't sure what it means. Some have suggested that this synchronized firing allows the brain to perform certain sophisticated computations, but there are a lot of holes in that idea. For starters, no one knew how neurons pick up on the synchrony and pass it along. Now researchers may have provided a partial answer to that question. On page 2295, they report results suggesting that networks of fast-spiking (FS) cells, a type of inhibitory neuron, could play a central role in detecting and fostering synchrony in the cortex, the large outer region of the brain that processes everything from complicated images to math problems.