PerspectiveNeuroscience

Controlling learning and epilepsy together

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Science  16 Feb 2018:
Vol. 359, Issue 6377, pp. 740-741
DOI: 10.1126/science.aas8993

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Summary

The dentate gyrus (DG) is a region in the hippocampus of the brain that is important for many cognitive functions, such as spatial learning and memory, and understanding our environment or context (1). The DG is also considered to be important in many diseases, some of which surprisingly do not appear to be related to memory, such as temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE) (2). One explanation is based on the idea that the DG is an inhibitory filter or gate (3, 4), preventing too much information from corrupting memory formation as well as preventing seizures. However, it is unclear exactly how and when the DG limits the influence of afferent input to the hippocampus, and when the DG is permissive, because the DG has powerful excitatory and inhibitory characteristics. For example, the DG contains mossy cells (MCs), which have both characteristics (5). On page 787 of this issue, Bui et al. (6) show that silencing MCs impairs a spatial memory task and also terminates seizures in an animal model of TLE, which could improve our understanding of TLE as well as cognitive comorbidities.