(May 14, 2010)--Researchers at the UTSA Neurosciences Institute are one step closer to understanding the physiology of dopaminergic neurons, the neurons in the brain that generally produce dopamine but die during Parkinson's disease.
Because dopaminergic neurons are the neurons that die during Parkinson's disease, and they also are the neurons affected when a drug user takes psycho-stimulants such as cocaine and amphetamine, the research has profound implications for public health.
Typically, dopaminergic neurons fire fast bursts of electrical activity. Scientists widely agree a protein called the NMDA receptor in the neuron's outer membrane has something to do with the ability to fire such fast bursts.
UTSA Assistant Professor Carlos Paladini and Professor Charles Wilson in the Department of Biology set out to learn how NMDA receptors cause bursts of firing in the brain's dopaminergic neurons. In a series of studies, the researchers observed that the NMDA receptor is highly sensitive to voltages. When the outer membrane's voltage is more positive, the NMDA receptor channel opens and leads to a single spike of electrical activity. When the outer membrane's voltage is more negative, the NMDA receptor channel closes and allows the neuron to recover from the previous spike of electrical activity.
Because the dopaminergic neuron's voltages quickly alternate between positive and negative, the result is NMDA receptors also quickly alternate between open and closed states. Voltage cues cause the NMDA receptors to oscillate rapidly several times between a spike of electrical activity one moment and silence the next, allowing dopaminergic neurons to fire a rapid burst of spikes: one spike with each NMDA receptor oscillation.
"For some reason, dopaminergic neurons are vulnerable in Parkinson's disease," said Paladini. "This study helps us better understand the physiology underlying their vulnerability."
The UTSA community welcomes students to their on-campus home! Laurel Village, Chaparral Village and Alvarez Hall are home for 2,300 students during the academic year, and Move-In event kicks off the start of Roadrunner Days.
Laurel Village, Chaparral Village, Alvarez Hall, Main Campus
Can you survive the library wilderness? As a part of Roadrunner Days, UTSA Libraries is hosting a mobile adventure for you to play and find out more about the library!
John Peace Library, 2nd floor, Main Campus
Come meet your UTSA Volleyball Team as they gear up for the 2017 season! The game begins at 5 p.m. then the team will hold an autograph and photo session after the game.
Convocation Center, Main Campus
This engaging discussion pulls back the covers on hooking up, clarifying when it’s actually sexual violence and how bystanders can protect potential victims from predators.
University Center, Retama Auditorium (UC 2.02.02), Main Campus
Late Night at the Rec is an awesome UTSA tradition that transforms a standard information session into an exciting night of fun. At this annual event, you’ll be able to learn about our facilities, recreation programs, and wellness services offered at Main and Downtown Campuses.
Recreation and Wellness Center, Main Campus
The UTSA community is invited to the Community Networking events hosted by the Student Center for Community Engagement and Inclusion during Roadrunner Days. Various opportunities will be available that will focus on our diverse population.
H-E-B University Center Ballrooms (HUC 1.104 and HUC 1.106), Main Campus
Start in the Paseo then branch out around campus so you know where to go on the first day of classes.
University Center Paseo, Main Campus
This event offers a preview of the UC’s programs and services that students can enjoy throughout the year. There will be food and giveaways too.
University Center Paseo, Main Campus
The University of Texas at San Antonio is dedicated to the advancement of knowledge through research and discovery, teaching and learning, community engagement and public service. As an institution of access and excellence, UTSA embraces multicultural traditions and serves as a center for intellectual and creative resources as well as a catalyst for socioeconomic development and the commercialization of intellectual property - for Texas, the nation and the world.
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