Striatal Neurons May Help Regulate Response to Unexpected Stimuli
Changing our behavior based on unexpected cues from our environment is an essential part of survival. The ability to drop what you’re doing when circumstances demand it could mean the difference between avoiding a speeding vehicle or getting hit by it. A new study at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST) has delved into a brain mechanism that may regulate such adaptation.
In the study, which was published in eLife, researchers led by Dr. Stefano Zucca at the OIST Neurobiology Research Unit investigated nerve cells in the striatum, a brain region involved in movement and motivation. Here, nerve cells called cholinergic interneurons (CINs) are in a near-constant state of activity, releasing a chemical called acetylcholine every time they fire. But if the brain gets an unexpected stimulus from outside the body – for example, a startling sound – the CINs will briefly stop firing.