Naturally occurring chemical in brain may enhance vision

November 24th, 2007 - 12:32 pm ICT by admin  

Washington, Nov 24 (ANI): A new study has found that a naturally occurring chemical in the brain can enhance the visual processing.

The study, led by Anita Disney, a post-doctoral fellow at NYUs Centre for Neural Science (CNS), also suggests that the chemical might represent part of the biological basis of visual attention.

The chemical, AcetylCholine (ACh), had been known to increase the activity of individual neurons; it had not previously been shown that this activity enhancement leads to enhanced vision.

In the study, the researchers looked at the brains nicotinic AcetylCholine receptors (nAChR), to which ACh binds to stimulate neural activity.

Nicotinic receptors are named for the fact that they also bind nicotine, the addictive chemical in cigarettes.

ACh is a neurotransmitter, a chemical used to relay, amplify, and modulate signals between neurons and between neurons and other cells.

The analysis of the study found that information, which comes into the brains visual cortex could be selectively enhanced by mimicking the effects of ACh with nicotine, resulting in the ability of neurons to detect, and to signal, stimuli that, without AChs enhancement, were below detection threshold.

Thats what attention does–it strengthens the signal youre interested in and that strengthening helps you filter out other things, Disney said.

Our findings show that acetylcholine has the ability to turn up the volume on visual activity, just like attention does, she added.

The study is published in the journal Neuron. (ANI)

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