Public Release: 

Personnel Management in the Brain: Brain Cells Shift Affiliations

American Committee for the Weizmann Institute of Science

REHOVOT, ISRAEL, AUGUST 15, 1996...The brain acts like a dynamic personnel manager, constantly shifting its "workers" functions ever-changing demands, according to a Weizmann Institute study published this month in Advances in *Processing and Pattern Analysis of Biological Signals*.

The study disproves the prevailing notion that nerve cells, or neurons, in the brain either act on their own or form permanent working groups. Instead, neurons were shown to belong to a number of different groups and to change their momentary affiliation in accordance with the task to be performed, thus coordinating the processes involved in seeing, hearing and movement control.

Using a groundbreaking technique that makes it possible to record the electrical activity of many individual neurons at the same time, Prof. Ad Aertsen of the Neurobiology Department and colleagues at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have shown that two neurons may closely communicate with each other when processing one type of signal, but completely ignore each other when responding to another kind.

If these findings are corroborated, they will have implications for such fields as neurology, where it is vital to know how a task carried out by one set of neurons may affect the function of other brain cells, and computer science, branches of which deal with simultaneous processing of information flowing along multiple paths.

Prof. Aertsen collaborated with Prof. Eilon Vaadia of the Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School and the Center for Neural Computation, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

The Weizmann Institute of Science, in Rehovot, Israel, is one of the world's foremost centers of scientific research and graduate study. Its 2,400 scientists, students, technicians, and engineers pursue basic research in the quest for knowledge and the enhancement of the human condition. New ways of fighting disease and hunger, protecting the environment, and harnessing alternative sources of energy are high priorities.


For press in the U.S., contact: Julie Osler (212) 779-2500
Director of Public Affairs
American Committee for the
Weizmann Institute of Science
(212) 779-2500
JULIE@ACWIS.ORG CompuServe: 76675,366

For foreign press, contact: Luba Vikhanski
Acting Head, Foreign Press and Publications
Weizmann Institute of Science
Rehovot, Israel
011 972 8 934 3855

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