Home > Medical, Research, Science > A new look at electrical prodding of the brain

A new look at electrical prodding of the brain

“For more than a century, scientists have been using electrical stimulation to explore and treat the human brain. The technique has helped identify regions responsible for specific neural functions — for instance, the motor cortex and pleasure center — and has been used to treat a variety of conditions from Parkinson’s disease to depression. Yet no one has been able to see what actually happens at the cellular level when the brain is electrically prodded.

Now, with the aid of optical imaging technology, researchers in the lab of Harvard Medical School (HMS) neurobiology professor Clay Reid have taken the first look at this process. They found that the neural response to electrical currents isn’t localized, as some had previously thought. That is, not all neurons immediately surrounding an electrode fire when a charge is delivered. Rather, a scattered and widely distributed set of neurons switch on. These findings, which will appear in tomorrow’s edition of the journal Neuron, may end a longstanding debate about how neurons react to electrical stimulation.”

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