The Self-Regulatory Brain: Keeping Neurons Under Control
Synapses are the point of transmission of information between neurons. They are highly specialized structures that can regulate their size based on the importance of the message, e.g. during memory formation, synapses grow and become more stable, while memory loss implies the shrinkage of synapses. These mechanisms, however, when uncontrolled, create positive feedbacks that take synapses to the extreme, either growing uncontrollably or simply disappearing. Fortunately, neurons have shown a self-regulating mechanism able to control synaptic transmission, however, so far it has only been described in some animals. In this research, we ask if such a mechanism is present also in humans, and if so, how it works, and what diseases might arise from its malfunction.
Andrea Santuy is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Hertie Institute for Clinical Brain Research in Tübingen, where she studies the regulation of human synaptic transmission. She graduated in Biology from the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, and two years later she obtained a master’s degree in Neuroscience from the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid. She later pursued a PhD describing the anatomy of synapses in the rodent cerebral cortex and their relationship with mitochondria using electron microscopy at the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid as part of the Human Brain Project. In 2019 she gained an Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship to come to Tübingen and combine her expertise with electrophysiological techniques and advance the knowledge of synaptic transmission.