Oman Daily Observer - - SCITECH -

IN a bid to bet­ter un­der­stand the brain re­gion linked to Alzheimer’s disease, sci­en­tists in the US have cre­ated what they be­lieve to be the most de­tailed at­las yet of the brain’s mem­ory bank — the hip­pocam­pus. Cre­ated us­ing flu­o­res­cent trac­ers and 3D an­i­ma­tion, the map shows struc­tures, nerve con­nec­tions and func­tions of the hip­pocam­pus in vivid de­tail, ac­cord­ing to the study pub­lished in the jour­nal Na­ture Neu­ro­science.

“Like a new at­las, we’ve con­structed the most de­tailed di­a­gram of the hip­pocam­pus to date,” said lead au­thor of the study Michael Bienkowski from the Keck School of Medicine of the Univer­sity of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia. “With a bet­ter map, we can see each re­gion and how it func­tions. A bet­ter map is a re­source sci­en­tists can use to bet­ter un­der­stand the hip­pocam­pus and how its de­gen­er­a­tion leads to dis­eases,” Bienkowski said.

The hu­man hip­pocam­pus sits at the base of the brain and it’s shaped like a sea­horse. It stores mem­o­ries, helps reg­u­late emo­tions and guides nav­i­ga­tion by spa­tial pro­cess­ing. It is the first part of the brain im­paired by Alzheimer’s and hip­pocam­pus de­gen­er­a­tion can cause epilepsy and other dis­eases.

In this case, sci­en­tists worked on a mouse brain be­cause it is or­gan­ised sim­i­lar to a hu­man brain. Sci­en­tists can use the new map of the hip­pocam­pus to de­liver ge­net­i­cal­ly­tar­geted drugs to spe­cific neu­rons with fewer side ef­fects, said se­nior au­thor, Hong­wei Dong, Pro­fes­sor of Neu­rol­ogy at USC. Sci­en­tists have known the ba­sic four-part ar­chi­tec­ture of the hip­pocam­pus for a long time.

But with the new map, sci­en­tists can show its sub-re­gions and how nerve cells in­ter­act across the struc­ture. “It to­tally changes our un­der­stand­ing by com­bin­ing a wiring di­a­gram with gene ex­pres­sion of the mouse hip­pocam­pus. We see it do­ing dif­fer­ent things, and this gives us a new way to un­der­stand how the whole thing works to­gether. This should have a very pro­found and broad im­pact,” Bienkowski said.

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