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Newly Discovered Metronome Neuron Cells

iStock-671117544A recent study carried out by Brown University neuroscientists discovered new metronome neuron cells in the brain. This exciting discovery may shed light on the brain's long-hypothesized internal clock and possible methods to increase sensitivity in the brain. The metronome neuron cells oscillate at approximately 40 cycles per second, which makes them “gamma waves” or gamma rhythms.

Gamma waves are the highest known frequency of brain waves that range from 38 to 100 Hz. The same brain waves are found in avid meditators and are thought, by many, to be that of oneness consciousness. It’s interesting that the same oscillation has been found in these new neurons that seem to “set the beat” and improve sensitivity in animal models.

Chris Moore, a professor of neuroscience at Brown and the associate director of the Carney Institute for Brain Science lead the research that discovered what are now known as “gamma regular non-sensory fast-spiking interneurons”. The research was initiated by Hyeyoung Shin, a doctoral student at the university who didn’t set out to discover the new neurons. Initially she wanted to study sensation-driven gamma rhythm.

Using sophisticated equipment, whiskers were moved very slightly and the animal’s ability to detect movement was recorded, along with the neuronal activity in the brain.  Shin said, "We found that about one third of these fast-spiking interneurons were 'ticking' very regularly. And ticking more regularly meant that the rodent was better able to perceive subtle sensations."

Moore and Shin now plan to study gamma rhythms in the human brain. Fast-spiking interneurons are a factor in several neurological disorders. Changes in the newly discovered metronome neuron function could lead the way to further understanding brain function.

 

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