Neural circuitry and mechanism underlying rhythmic movements identified for first time in mammals
Whether you dance like a drunken dad or trained professional, you have rhythm in your bones. It underlies fundamental actions from walking to breathing. This rhythm comes from bursts of activity in brain circuits called central oscillators. These have proven hard to pinpoint and study, but new research has fully described one such circuit in mice. The collection of neurons (brain cells, pictured, green) control the regular swishing of a mouse’s whiskers, called whisking. When one neuron sparks into life, it inhibits those around it (with an inhibitor shown in red), which ultimately creates a coherent rhythm across the network, resulting in the regular movement. The scientists traced the neurons back from the whisker muscles, and found a cluster of cells all expressing a protein called parvalbumin (blue) leading the dance. This first isolation of a mammal oscillator could be a step towards understanding a fundamental aspect of our bodies.
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