Getting your muscles to move in rhythm on the dance floor takes some practice. But getting them to do the same when you swallow takes no practice at all. This is because repetitive movements like swallowing and breathing are controlled by special circuits of neurons that inherently work to a constant rhythm. What isn’t clear is how they speed up or slow down this rhythm. Researchers investigated this by creating ‘circuitoids’ (pictured) – networks of neurons (red/white) made in a dish from mouse embryonic stem cells. Different circuitoids contained different numbers of two types of neurons – excitatory and inhibitory. They found that the rhythmic activity of each circuitoid depended on the ratio of excitatory and inhibitory neurons. Recruiting different numbers of these neurons to these special circuits in our body, may be what gives us the flexibility to leisurely graze over our dinner or to scoff it down.
Written by Lux Fatimathas
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.