University of Calgary

New findings show brain plasticity may also be essential for stability

Posted June 25, 2009
Jaideep Bains, PhD in his lab / Photo credit: Bruce PerraultJaideep Bains, PhD in his lab / Photo credit: Bruce Perrault In an article published in the June 25th edition of the journal Neuron, researchers at the Hotchkiss Brain Institute, University of Calgary, have found that synaptic plasticity, long implicated as a device for ‘change’ in the brain, may also be essential for stability.

Homeostasis, the body’s own mechanism of regulating and maintaining internal balance in the body, is necessary for survival. Precisely how the brain pulls off this tricky balancing act has not been well appreciated.

By examining neural circuits that regulate fluid volume, Jaideep Bains, PhD, and colleagues, Brent Kuzmiski, PhD, and Quentin Pittman, PhD, have demonstrated that multiple forms of synaptic plasticity work to ensure that an effective response to a life-threatening challenge is followed by an immediate recovery of these neural circuits to pre-challenge conditions.

These observations provide the first set of synaptic rules that help us understand how homeostatic setpoints are re-set in vivo.  Based on their findings, Bains and colleagues, demonstrate that synaptic plasticity is essential for maintaining stability in a nervous system constantly bombarded by inputs from the outside world.

This research was supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Alberta, Yukon and NWT.  Bains is an AHFMR (Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research) senior scholar while Pittman is an AHFMR medical scientist. Bains is an associate professor and Pittman a professor in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics. Both are members of the Hotchkiss Brain Institute in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Calgary.

About the Hotchkiss Brain Institute
The Hotchkiss Brain Institute at UCalgary, consists of more than 100 physicians and scientists who are dedicated to advancing neurological and mental health research and education. The Institute’s research strengths in foundational neuroscience (axon biology and regeneration, cerebral blood flow and metabolism, synaptic transmission and neural systems) are leading to new treatments for neurological and psychiatric disorders, aimed at improving quality of life and patient care.  More information on the Hotchkiss Brain Institute can be found at www.hbi.ucalgary.ca

About the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Calgary
UCalgary’s Faculty of Medicine is a national leader in health research with an international reputation for excellence and innovation in health care research, education and delivery. We train the next generation of health practitioners and move new treatments and diagnostic techniques from the laboratory bench to the hospital bedside, improving patient care.  For more information visit http://medicine.ucalgary.ca. or follow us on twitter.com @UofCMedicine