Nerve cells under the microscope
Bild: Science Photo Library
Nerve cells can greatly change their network of extensions and still retain their function. Researchers from Frankfurt and Giessen discovered this. Their knowledge can help to better understand diseases such as dementia.
Dendrites are extensions of nerve cells, through which electrical signals are received and transmitted. They can be very variably formed – and yet neurons whose dendrites differ greatly from one another can process information in the same way. This has been shown by researchers from the Universities of Frankfurt and Giessen and the Ernst Strüngmann Institute in Frankfurt. They used computer models and, according to their own statements, were thus able to reduce the number of animal experiments.
The principle of “dendritic constancy” formulated by the scientists also states that the input and output of the nerve cells remain practically the same if the dendrites change significantly during brain development. The mechanism also counteracts damage caused by injury or illness. In dementia, for example, it could delay the onset of symptoms such as memory loss.