March 30, 2006

Understanding How Neurons Learn

John's Hopkins researchers have shown that interactions between the PICK1 protein and another group of proteins known as AMPA receptors are important for allowing certain nerve cells to learn.

These nerve cells, called Purkinje cells, become desensitized in response to signals from neighboring cells in a process known as long-term depression (LTD.).

It is this process that allows them to learn certain motor skills such as the vestibulo-ocular reflex which coordinates eye movements with head movements.

According to Richard L. Huganir, Ph.D., a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and chair of the Solomon H. Snyder Department of Neuroscience at Hopkins, "we've long known that LTD underlies responses like the vestibulo-ocular reflex.

This study gets at the heart of how LTD occurs, specifically how PICK1 controls the Purkinje cell's response to the signaling molecule, glutamate."

From Wire and RedOrbit Editors