A new study suggests that even a brain injury that affects relatively few brain cells can lead to a “chain reaction” that can affect a much larger neural network.
New-Medical.net reports that a research team at Oregon Health & Science University conducted the study and recently published their results in the journal Neuron. Surprisingly, the study found that following traumatic brain injury (TBI) even neurons that were not injured by the event can be affected by the brain's reaction to the injury.
The article quoted Marc Freeman, Ph.D, Study Senior Author and Director of Vollum Institute, Oregon Health & Science University, as saying:
“Even the so-called bystander neurons that aren't injured or diseased can sense there's been an injury and radically change their function. That means that it's not just the broken neurons that are affected when you have a nervous system injury - it's maybe all of the neurons."
While studying fruit flies, which researchers have established are good stand-ins for humans relating to neural network function, the researchers found that even small injuries can affect surrounding axons.
The team believes that cells called Glial cells may be the culprit. "Our work suggests that even when there's a relatively small injury to some neurons, they [Glial cells] can run out like Paul Revere and shut everything down," the team said.