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Human Neurons Are Different From Animal Ones, Researchers Say

A Canadian research team got a rare chance to compare live brain tissue from donors undergoing surgery with that of rodents

Most neuroscience studies on live neurons depend on animal neurons. But a group of researchers in Canada got the opportunity to study live neurons from 66 human donors undergoing brain surgery for epilepsy and tumors. So they had a chance to compare human with rodent neurons:

“The goal of this study was to understand what makes human brain cells ‘human,’ and how human neuron circuitry functions as it does,” says Dr. Taufik Valiante, neurosurgeon, scientist at the Krembil Brain Institute at UHN and co-senior author on the paper.

University Health Network, “Researchers Identify Unique Characteristics of Human Neurons” at Neuroscience News (May 3, 2021)

Looking specifically at live human cortical pyramidal cells, they found “notable and unexpected differences between their findings and similar experiments in pre-clinical models.” In the context, “pre-clinical models” means neurons from rodents.

Specifically, they found

● A massive amount of diversity among human neocortical pyramidal cells

● Distinct electrophysiological features between neurons located at different layers in the human neocortex

● Specific features of deeper layer neurons enabling them to support aspects of across-layer communication and the generation of functionally important brain rhythms

University Health Network, “Researchers Identify Unique Characteristics of Human Neurons” at Neuroscience News (May 3, 2021)

So the human neurons’ interactions turned out to be of more different types, show more different features, and have more complex interactions than the rodent ones. The research team hopes that building computer models of the neurons’ interactions will help with epilepsy research.

The paper is open access.

Note: The photo of the human cortical pyramidal cell is courtesy Bob Jacobs, Laboratory of Quantitative Neuromorphology Department of Psychology Colorado College (2006)


You may also wish to read: Ageing brains need exercise, not sofas for neurons Neuroscientist Yuri Danilov reassures seniors, we do not lose neurons as we age.


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Human Neurons Are Different From Animal Ones, Researchers Say