Employees of the University of Auckland and the University of Canterbury in New Zealand have demonstrated the fractal nature of neurons using high-resolution 3D computer modeling. The work was published in the journal Scientific Reports.
The researchers studied the fractal nature of neurons to create retinal electrodes that would correct vision loss caused by disease. The challenge was to understand how the retinal neurons to be acted upon connection to the electrodes. Basically, you have to trick the neurons into thinking that the electrode is another neuron by giving it a fractal shape," said Richard Taylor, professor and head of the Department of Physics at the University of Oregon.
The experts created a three-dimensional computer model of a neural network to study what happens when they manipulate the dendrites of more than 1,600 neurons, giving them unnatural shapes by straightening or twisting them. "By distorting neuronal branches and observing what happens, we were able to show that fractal intertwining of spurs compensates for the ability of neurons to connect with their neighbors to form natural electrical circuits while balancing the costs of building and operating those circuits," says the University of Oregon Fellow and study co-author Conor Rowland.
The findings will be important for optimizing the electrodes being created. Such implants will be able to adapt effectively to the plexus of neural branches and connect to them.
Scientists have also estimated D values - fractal dimensions in the neural network - that could be useful in studying numerous brain-related diseases. For example, for Alzheimer's disease, D values can be an indicator of decreased connectivity between neurons. "Many diseases lead to loss of connectivity, and D values can decrease in pathologies," noted Richard Taylor
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