September 21, 2011
Science Daily/Duke University Medical Center
Zinc has been found to play a critical role in regulating communication between cells in the brain, possibly governing the formation of memories and controlling the occurrence of epileptic seizures.
A collaborative project between Duke University Medical Center researchers and chemists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has been able to watch zinc in action as it regulates communication between neurons in the hippocampus, where learning and memory processes occur -- and where disrupted communication may contribute to epilepsy.
"We discovered that zinc is essential to control the efficiency of communication between two critical populations of nerve cells in the hippocampus," said James McNamara, M.D., senior author and chair of the Department of Neurobiology at Duke. "This addresses a longstanding controversy in the field."
"Carefully controlling zinc's regulation of communication between these nerve cells is critical to both formation of memories and perhaps to occurrence of epileptic seizures," McNamara said.