Jellyfish shed light on how human brain works

8 June 2009

Scientists at the University of Leicester are developing new ways of studying how brain cells work by using fluorescent proteins from jellyfish.

Professor of Neuroscience at the University of Leicester, Nicholas Hartell, is leading a research group examining the connections between brain cells, called synapses.

And thanks to fluorescent protein sensors derived from proteins originally discovered in jellyfish, the researchers can watch synapses as they transmit and store information.

Professor Hartell, of the Department of Cell Physiology and Pharmacology, will be explaining his research at an inaugural public lecture at the University of Leicester (Tuesday 9 June at 5.30pm in Lecture Theatre 1, Ken Edwards Building). The lecture is open to the public and free.

He said: “Changes in the strength of signalling between excitable cells in the brain provide a mechanism for information storage in the brain. In this lecture, I will discuss how synapses, the specialised connections formed between brain cells, can change their properties and so contribute to the learning and the formation of memory.

“In particular, I will introduce recent work that aims to develop methods of visualising synaptic transmission during learning. I will also consider the application of technology originally developed for televisions, projectors and the telecommunications industry to high speed visualisation of neurones and neural networks.”

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