Colloquia IFIC - Severo Ochoa
Exploring Neurons and Circuits to Understand our Brain
by Prof. Juan Lerma (Instituto de Neurociencias de Alicante)
Thursday, 18 May 2017 from to (Europe/Madrid)
More than hundred years ago, Cajal showed that a neuron communicates with another through specialized contacts, which Sherrington named “synapsis”. This term defines the point where a nervous cell makes a functional contact with another to communicate with it. The concept of neuronal communication has marked an age of scientific research, setting the basic mechanisms that rule the transmission of information through the nervous system. The identification of genes encoding a large number of proteins forming the neural communication machinery has helped to determine that the brain function- learning, memory, etc- is based on the proper functioning of this machinery. Indeed, diverse cerebral disorders, from epilepsy to mental illnesses, addiction, etc have their origin in dysfunctions of this exquisite organization. This talk will briefly describe the elements and mechanisms that neurons use to transmit information; the proteins that form the apparatus of neurotransmitter release; the postsynaptic receptors located in the neuronal membrane to receive the information and the proteins that regulate their subcellular localization that constitute the bricks with which the performance of our brain is built. Light changes of this structure convey alterations on how neurons understand each other and are the basis for devastating brain diseases. All these are fundamental findings on the nervous system and may be considered the great contribution of Neuroscience in the 20th century. With the development of new approaches and tools (imaging, psychophysical, bioinformatics, etc) a new era opens in the attempt of understanding our brain and its pathologies, which probably represents the major challenge the Human Being faces in the 21st century.