Scientists at the University of Edinburgh have identified a protein crucial for maintaining the health and function of nerve fibres in brain that controls transmission of messages within the brain.
The finding could provide new clue in understanding disorders like epilepsy, dementia, multiple sclerosis and stroke.
"Knowing more about how signals in the brain work will help us better understand neurodegenerative disorders and why, when these illnesses strike, the brain can no longer send signals to parts of the body," said Peter Brophy.
The brain works like an electrical circuit, sending impulses along nerve fibres in the same way that current is sent through wires.
These fibres can measure up to a metre, but the area covered by the segment of nerve that controls transmission of messages is no bigger than the width of a human hair.
"At any moment tens of thousands of electrical impulses are transmitting messages between nerve cells in our brains. Identifying proteins that are critical for the precise initiation of these impulses will help unravel the complexities of how brains work and may lead to new insights into how brains evolved," said co-author Matthew Nolan.
The study is published in the journal Neuron.