September 22, 2014

Communication without detours

Scientists from Heidelberg, Mannheim and Bonn discover a new shape of neurons that allows signals to be propagated via a shortcut (September 2014).

Nerve cells communicate by using electrical signals. Via widely ramified cell structures—the  dendrites—, they receive signals from other neurons and then transmit them over a thin cell extension—the axon—to other nerve cells. Axon and dendrites are usually interconnected by the neuron’s cell body. A team of scientists at the Bernstein Center Heidelberg-Mannheim, Heidelberg University, and the University of Bonn has now discovered neurons in which the axon arises directly from one of the dendrites. Similar to taking a bypass road, the signal transmission is thus facilitated within the cell.