Ephaptic Coupling in Brain Offers New Understanding

Posted 7 Feb 2011 at 15:58 UTC by Rog-a-matic Share This

Mimicking the human brain may be even harder than expected. For decades researchers have attempted to decode the inner workings of our grey matter and much progress has been made in the area of neural networks, but recent work by neuroscientists at Caltech are offering yet another mechanism crucial to brain function - ephaptic coupling. It was once thought that neural processing was performed entirely via synapses (junctions between neurons), but now it's believed that information is also transmitted through extracellular electric fields throughout the brain. This epiphenomenon allows groups of neurons to influence each other without physical connection complicating our understanding of this remarkable machine. Of course this also raises new questions about the effects of external electrical fields on our thinking processes.

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