Researchers give new insight into the human brain

Researchers at the University of Sheffield have uncovered a novel chemical pathway in the brain that may be vital to our learning and memory processes, leading to a better understanding of disease states in the central nervous system.

Diseases of the brain affect millions of people around the world but there are still few treatments or cures. The human brain continues to baffle scientists and relatively little is understood as to how changes occur in the nerves of the brain, in particular how the brain allows us to learn and remember things - a process known as synaptic plasticity.

The research group, led by Dr Kei Cho in the Department of Biomedical Science at the University of Sheffield, discovered that a previously unknown pathway is required in the brain's learning and memory process. The group discovered that the pathway, known as the Kainate receptors (KARs), respond to chemical changes in the brain which induce synaptic plasticity - a previously undiscovered mechanism.

Dr Kei Cho said: "KARs have been implicated in disease states such as epilepsy and neurodegeneration. This research is another step forward in the scientific understanding of the human brain, and as a result it could also lead to possible solutions to neurological diseases."

Notes for Editors: Dr Kei Cho's research is published in this month's edition of Neuron. (Neuron 49: 95-106).

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