The ability to identify the traits of individual neurons can pave the way for our future understanding of how entire regions of the brain operate. A new method for identifying the characteristics of neurons in the prefrontal cortex has been identified by scientists from NYU. "We have established a method to find functional groupings of neurons based on co-fluctuation of their responses," says Roozbeh Kiani, an assistant professor in NYU's Center for Neural Science and one of the study's authors. "In doing so, we show that PFC neurons are organized into spatially contiguous maps, much like their counterparts in sensory cortices. The widely accepted notion that orderly spatial maps are restricted to sensory cortices, therefore, needs revision. "Our methodology is closely related to the techniques that led to the discovery of functional networks in brain imaging studies," adds William Newsome, a professor of neurobiology at Stanford University and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator. "There is, however, a crucial difference. We extend the methodology to cellular scale and demonstrate that it can be used for identifying networks at a neuronal level. By suggesting a potential neural substrate for functional networks in macro-scale brain imaging we bridge a critical gap in our knowledge."
Imaging analysis studies on the brains of adults over 80 years of age with great memory demonstrates the neuroanatomical differences these elite sect of society display as they age. When compared with 50 - 60 year olds, these individuals, coined Super Agers, show unusual brain signatures characterized by three main components: a thicker, larger region of the cortex, significantly fewer neurofibrillary tangles and a large supply of a neuron called von Economo, which has been linked to higher social intelligence. See the full story in The Journal of Neuroscience here.