A molecule, which controls blood pressure and a man's ability to have an erection, may also hold a key for treating Alzheimer's disease, chronic pain, and migraine, scientists have revealed.
The University of Leicester team claims nitric oxide may have a profound impact on the brain, reports The BBC.
AdvertisementResearcher Adam Tozer said: "This prompts the question 'Why is a molecule that can produce penile erections necessary in the brain?'
"It is hoped that this research will go some way to solving the complexity of communication between brain cells, and therefore provide openings for therapeutic strategies against debilitating conditions.
"It will also help to shed light on communication in the healthy brain and this will enable a greater understanding of how we think."
The team will focus on the junctions between cells that enable them to "talk" to each other.
They will examine how nitric oxide can influence this communication.
Rebecca Wood, chief executive of the Alzheimer's Research Trust said: "It will be interesting to find out what nitric oxide does in the brain, and if it has any role in Alzheimer's.
"This study may help researchers understand how the brain works and how nerve cells communicate with each other.
"Understanding our thought processes and the brain is crucial to understanding and defeating diseases that affect it."