A study conducted by University of
Arkansas researchers reveals that neurons in the motor cortex of the
brain exhibit an unexpected division of labor, a finding that could help
scientists understand how the brain controls the body and provide
insight on certain neurological disorders.
The researchers studied the neurons in the motor cortex of rats and
found that they fall into two groups: “externally focused” neurons that
communicate with and control different parts of the body and “internally
focused” neurons that only communicate with each other and don’t send
signals to other parts of the body. The researchers also found that when
they increased inhibition of neurons in the motor cortex, the
externally focused neurons switched to internally focused.
“Alterations in inhibitory signaling are implicated in numerous brain
disorders,” explained Woodrow Shew, associate professor of physics.
“When we increased inhibition in the motor cortex, those neurons
responsible for controlling the body become more internally oriented.
This means that the signals that are sent to the muscles from the motor
cortex might be corrupted by the ‘messy’ internal signals that are
normally not present.”
Rett Syndrome, a rare but severe neurological disorder, is one of the
brain disorders associated with an increase in inhibition. Shew plans
to further research the implications of these findings for Rett