BIBS-funded work on potentiation

Neurotransmitters are the chemicals that allow neurons to pass signals (across a synapse) from one to the next. Glycine is one of the three most important neurotransmitters, yet there is much that scientists still don’t know about glycinergic synapses, including ones in the spinal cord that play a role in pain. With a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers led by Julie Kauer at Brown are the first to show that these synapses can undergo a strengthening process called long-term potentiation. “Our work defines the first mammalian example of synaptic strengthening of these synapses,” said Kauer, whose study was conducted with mice. “This gives us all kinds of clues to how we might modify the strength of glycinergic synapses in the brain and spinal cord to affect processes as diverse as spasticity, hearing, and retinal signaling, as well as pain.” The co-lead authors are graduate student Anda Chirila and former postdoctoral researcher Travis Brown. The Brown Institute for Brain Science helped to fund the research.