Results observed in an animal model reveal hidden differences in the properties of neural circuits that may account for whether animals are behaviorally susceptible to brain injury, and may also hold promise in the treatment for brain trauma, according to researchers at the Neuroscience Institute at Georgia State University.

A news release issued by the university notes that individuals vary in their responses to stroke and trauma, and if doctors could predict outcomes with greater accuracy, these patients may benefit from more customized treatments. Yet, the complexity of the human brain can prove challenging in efforts to explain why similar brain damage can impact each individual differently.

To explore this concept, during their study, researchers reportedly used a sea slug known as Tritonia diomedea. The animal was used in the study as it has a small amount of neurons and simple behavior, yet also varied in how neurons were connected.

The release states that while under normal conditions, the variability did not matter in relation to the animal’s behavior. When a major pathway in the brain was severed, some of the animals exhibited little behavioral deficit, while others could not produce the behavior being studied. The researchers were also able to artificially rewire the neural circuit using computer-generated connections and make animals susceptible or invulnerable to the injury.

Paul Katz, PhD, a Georgia State professor who led the research, explains the study’s significance in light of the Obama BRAIN Initiative, “which seeks to map all of the connections in the human brain. It shows that even in a simple brain, small differences that have no effect under normal conditions have major implications when the nervous system is challenged by injury or trauma.”

The study appears in the journal eLife and it is hoped that its results will help offer basic information about how all nervous systems function.

[Source(s): EurekAlert, Georgia State University]