Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Brain Plasticty and the role of Microglia

Immune cells known as microglia, long thought to be activated in the brain only when fighting infection or injury, are constantly active and likely play a central role in the creation and elimination of synapses.

Their apparent role as an architect of synapses—junctions between brain cells called neurons—comes as a surprise to researchers long accustomed to thinking of microglia as cells focused exclusively on keeping the brain safe from threats.

Electron micrograph of a microglia cell (shown in black) touching surrounding cells in the synapse, including dendritic spines (pink) and axon terminals (blue). (Credit: University of Rochester)

“When scientists talk about microglia, the talk is almost always about disease.

Our work suggests that microglia may actively contribute to learning and memory in the healthy brain, which is something that no one expected,” says Ania Majewska, study leader and a neuroscientist at the University of Rochester.

More ....Rochester

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