Electrical impulse travels at high speed in the human brain; Read on to know more

A recent study in the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience showed how electrical impulses travel in the human brain with high speed.
Electrical impulse travels at high speed in the human brain; Read on to know moreElectrical impulse travels at high speed in the human brain; Read on to know more
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Researchers have used a new technique to showcase how electrical impulses travel with high speed in the brain. The research has been done by the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience (NIN). According to the researchers, it appears that myelin, the sheath around neurons, creates a coaxial cable producing multiple waves of electrical potentials travelling in a more complicated manner than was envisioned earlier.

These findings allow them to create better theories and tools to understand demyelinating diseases including the most common neurological disorder, multiple sclerosis. The paper has been published in the prestigious scientific journal Cell.

What the study is all about?
The brain consists of around one hundred billion neurons. All these neurons have to communicate with each other. This happens by means of exchanging electrical impulses travelling at velocities of up to 360 km per hour.

Professor Maarten Kole says, "We know this requires the presence of myelin sheaths, consisting of multiple layers of fatty material wrapped around the nerve cell extensions. Myelin is often conceptualized as an insulator that leads to the "jumping" of electrical potentials along with the cables that we could see as the 'highways of our brain'. But the mechanisms of jumping were not understood. However, this research opens new avenues to understand the hardware of the brain in terms of how they compute with a rapid signal transfer."

Together with researchers of the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) of Experimental Medicine (Gottingen, Germany), the researchers used electron microscopy to measure the distance between the nerve cell membrane and the insulating sheath. It was around 12 nanometers, approximately 10,000 times thinner than a hair.

What did they find?


Furthermore, the scientists of the NIN used a new technique to make electricity visible and took advantage of a supercomputer to calculate the specific properties of myelin sheaths. According to Kole, whatever they have found showed them that instead of being an insulating sheath, myelin can also create an additional layer like coaxial cables producing multiple waivers of electrical potentials.
This research also will help to understand demyelinating diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS) better. In patients with MS, myelin sheaths are broken down. This leads to an increasing degree of limitations that affect strength, balance and coordination, and thus the patient's mobility. To be able to cure and prevent MS, it is important to know the exact way the myelin sheath functions to predict what happens if it doesn't function as it should. Kole further said that their work now may provide reliable predictions of how impulses travel along the highways without myelin. This research contributes towards the understanding of the cellular changes occurring in the MS.

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