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Brain Master Switch

May 25, 2010

Scientists have identified a protein that serves as the brain’s master switch.


The brain’s ‘go’ signal. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Our brains control everything we do, by sending and receiving electrical signals triggered by chemicals called neurotransmitters. It turns out that all this, in turn, depends on a single protein. It’s called synaptotagmin1. Iowa State University biophysicist Yeon-Kyun Shin and his colleagues showed that this protein alone triggers a nerve cell to release its neurotransmitters. He suspects that defects in this protein could underlie many neurological disorders, from epilepsy to schizophrenia.

YEON-KYUN SHIN (Iowa State University):
All these neurotransmitter-related diseases are, I think, connected to the malfunction of this protein machinery.

He’d like to find a way to manipulate the protein therapeutically. The hard part would be targeting only the brain pathways that aren’t working. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.