Staying connected is vital for our brain cells. Across a mass of 100 trillion bridges, called synapses, neurons combine to give our brain an unrivalled computing power. But there can be too much of a good thing, and too many active synapses can cause damage to the nervous system. The cognitive and muscular problems caused by Huntingdon’s disease are thought to be triggered in this way. Sufferers produce an abnormal version of a protein, a defect that causes the brain to develop too many stimulatory connections. Stress caused by this is evident in mice whose protein production has been 'switched off' in certain brain areas. Star-shaped cells that respond to brain damage explode into action (activity marked in green) in response to the disruption. Therefore, finding ways to counteract this effect, and allow healthy synapses to grow during development are a top priority for scientists looking for a cure.
Written by Jan Piotrowski