Bryn Mawr College, Spring 2010
Astrocytes are a type of glial cell. Glial cells had always been thought to provide physical structure and little else to the neuronal networks of the central nervous system. However, as with many topics in neuroscience, a great deal of more recent research has shed light on the complex and sometimes surprising functions of the astrocyte. The astrocyte has been found to posses many abilities that were previously thought to be exclusive to neurons including neurotransmitter release and inter-cell signalling. I would like to spend some time discussing some of the more recent findings as well as their implications in terms of many neurologic disorders whose physical cause may lay within the astrocyte (and thus remain poorly understood). Beyond the astrocyte itself I want to focus on what exactly makes this research so important, especially considering it challenges one of the oldest rules of neuroscience, the neuron doctrine. So please take check out the readings (which were emailed to you) but also try to think about astrocytes' place within the realm of neuroscience.
Araque, A. (2008). Astrocytes process synaptic information. Neuron Glia Biology, 4(1), 3-10.
Giaume, C., Koulakoff, A., Roux, L., Holcman, D., & Rouach, N. (2010). Astroglial networks: a step further in neuroglial and gliovascular interactions. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 11, 87-99.
Keyser, J., Mostert, J., & Koch, M. (2008). Dysfunctional astrocytes as key players in the pathogenesis of central nervous system disorders. Journal of the Neurological Sciences, 267, 3-16
Some relevant thoughts from last week:
the culture of science demands that emotions must be hidden and the jargon must be cutting-edge, which necessarily prevents the vast majority of the public from understanding ... VGopinath
The inclusion of subjectivity and personal experience, which initially captivated me and was my favorite part of her account, is now essentially an academic turn-off of sorts ... sberman
nothing could fully be explained without the use of metaphors because everything we show or support comes from a subjective viewpoint that must be modified towards a broader audience ... All scientists do this in fact all people do this. What is communication without metaphor, really? ... Isn’t every word a metaphor for some intangible meaning? Don’t attack expression just be open to a different meaning in unexpected contexts ... mrobbins
Some diagnoses already rely (at least to some extent) on self-report data; patients must report feeling upset, lethargic, or even suicidal for an extended period of time in order for physicians to diagnose them with depression ... kenglander
the subjectivity we tried so hard to keep separate has become the very topic to be investigated ... maybe emotion should not be kept so strictly distinct from science ... I imagine that as repulsive as we find the integration of emotion into science, we find the incorporation of religion about a hundred times worse ... Is it possible that science is an inevitable part of religion, or even more jarringly, that religion is an inevitable outcome of science? ... David F
neurobiological observations might over time lead to the conclusion that there is in all people an irreducible, non-categorizable, non-calibrateable, distinctive individuality/subjectivity. Might experience with that residual distinctive subjectivity, unique to each individual, be related to/the origin of, what in religious discourse is referred to as the "soul" or "spirit"? ... Paul
William James, heralded as "the father of American psychology", was obsessed with the study of emotions and fluctuations in mood. He had personal experience confronting "serious psychological difficulties" and this personal experience inspired him to study how his (and others, later on) own spirituality and consciousness related to physiology and neuroscience ... meroberts
if the theory is impossible to test it is not science, a scientific theory may not be provable across all possible circumstances, but is must be possible to disprove ... Jeremy Posner