PerspectiveNeuroscience

Astrocytes tell neurons when to listen up

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Science  14 Aug 2015:
Vol. 349, Issue 6249, pp. 690-691
DOI: 10.1126/science.aad0678

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Summary

Throughout our nervous systems, neurons are faced with an enormous number of inputs, only some of which are relevant for accurate perceptions and appropriate behavior. On page 730 of this issue, Martín et al. (1) uncover a mechanism through which activation of one neuron temporarily enhances the responsiveness of neighboring neurons of the same type. This allows specific populations of neurons to effectively compare notes about their inputs, increasing the chance that if a group of neurons is activated simultaneously, a signal will propagate and change behavior. It turns out that the cellular machinery required to orchestrate this coordination extends beyond the neurons themselves to the surrounding network of glia, revealing a previously unrealized dimension of cellular specificity within the nervous system.