SMS scnews item created by Martin Wechselberger at Thu 19 Mar 2009 1733
Type: Seminar
Distribution: World
Expiry: 25 Mar 2009
Calendar1: 25 Mar 2009 1405-1455
CalLoc1: Eastern Avenue Lecture Theatre
Auth: wm@p628.pc (assumed)

Applied Maths Seminar: Gibson -- Modelling the Missing Half of the Brain

Bill Gibson, School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Sydney 

Most modeling of brain function concentrates on neurons, with emphasis on their
connectivity and electrical activity.  However, the brain and nervous system contain
another class of cells, the glia, that actually outnumber neurons.  These cells were
first observed over a century ago, but were thought to be mainly a support system for
the much more important neurons.  This view is now changing, with the increasing
realization that glia, and in particular the type known as astrocytes, form an important
communication system in their own right and are responsible for controlling many aspects
of brain function.  Indeed, one author has suggested that "science has missed one-half
of the brain".  

This talk will survey modeling work involving glial cells that I have been involved in
over the past 5 years, in collaboration with Max Bennett and Les Farnell.  Topics to be
covered are signal transmission in artificially constructed astrocyte networks, the
pathway relating neural activity to changes in blood flow in the cortex (of significance
in brain imaging), the role astrocytes play in cortical spreading depression (related to
migraine and stroke damage) and the involvement of spinal cord astrocytes and microglia
in neuropathic (persistent) pain.

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