The Receptive Mind
 
The Schiller team examines brain plasticity mechanisms
 
“Only synergy between the various biological, computational and engineering disciplines will lead to significant progress in our understanding of the brain and its functions.” Prof. Jackie Schiller
 

“In recent decades, the field of brain research has become diverse and multidisciplinary,” explains Prof. Jackie Schiller of the Rappaport Faculty of Medicine. “Engineering tools are an integral part of the development of brain research and the application of brain devices as a solution for motor and cognitive impairments. Artificial systems that mimic the human brain have tremendous potential.

Today, it is clear to us that only synergy between the various biological, computational and engineering disciplines will lead to significant progress in our understanding of the brain and its functions. What we need here is extensive and multidisciplinary research activity based on coherent in depth theoretical work and on preclinical and clinical studies.”

Schiller’s research, published in the prestigious journal Neuron, examines brain plasticity mechanisms related to anticipation, feedback, learning and memory, specifically in relation to the receptive aspect of the neuron – the dendrite.

Neurons are composed of several organelles: the cell body and nucleus; the axon a branched offshoot that extends from the cell body and transmits information; dendrites, the main input sites of the neuron; and the synapses, the point of connection between the axon of one cell and the dendrite of another. These channels of communication – axons, dendrites and synapses – are essential for brain function, and are the sites of various devastating brain diseases.

Dendrites comprise most of the grey matter and occupy most of the volume of the cerebral cortex. They are tree-like branches, a few millimeters in length, which enable the cell to receive and process information from other neurons. In previous articles, Prof. Schiller demonstrated that dendrites are not simple structures but complex nonlinear processing machines, and now she has unveiled the mechanism behind their unique flexibility.

“During the learning process, this mechanism changes the dendrite and synapse,” explains Schiller, “If we understand the precise nature of this mechanism we may be able to improve processes such as memory formation and potentially develop a novel class of treatment for neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative diseases.”

 



Prof. Jackie Schiller, Rappaport Faculty of Medicine

Read the article published in Neuron: