Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis


neuron cell with electrical pulses concept 3d illustration.

Our Neurons’ Electrical Synapses Are the Dark Matter of the Brain

These aren’t the familiar chemical synapses but a second set, the electrical synapses that enable currents to travel directly between neurons from pore to pore.

The universe has its dark matter, the 23% of matter that we know is out there but can’t see because it emits no light. The brain has its own “dark matter” too, in the form of electrical synapses. These are not the chemical synapses by which neurons transmit a stimulus from one cell to the next. They are a second layer of synapse that allows message-carrying currents to flow passively from one neuron to another through pores in the neurons’ cell walls. They are likely important because just about every type of animal except echinoderms (starfish and sand dollars, for example) has them — and yet we don’t know much about them: ”Electrical synapses are much rarer and are hard…

Illustration of synapse and neuron on a blue background.

Brain Cells Can Mislead Each Other, Cause Mental Disorders

Neuroscientists: When cells talk to each other, due to faulty signals given to proteins, they don’t always say the right things

Recent research in how brain cells talk to one another may help treat anxiety and addiction disorders, as well as dementias. Brain cells talk to each other through synapses, where molecules whose chemistry is interpreted as information are released and travel to the next cell: When people learn or remember things, this signalling is strengthened. When communication between synapses goes wrong, circuits become broken. As more circuits are lost, this changes how people can think and perform everyday tasks. This is seen in cognitive disorders, such as forms of dementia and some mental health conditions. University of Nottingham, “Scientists gain new understanding of how brain cells talk – which could help in the treatment of mental health conditions and memory…