(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."
Take Back the Night is an international initiative to end violence. The event begins with banner making, followed by a march, presentations and poetry reading.
Sombrilla, Main Campus
Members of the UTSA community have published “Adapt and Overcome: Essays of the Student Veteran Experience,” an important book to help active duty military and veterans successfully transition to college life. The event includes a panel discussion with UTSA alumni student veterans who contributed chapters to the book. Guests can also purchase the book. All proceeds benefit the UTSA Student Veteran Association.
Business Building, University Room (BB 2.06.04), Main Campus
The Graduate School is hosting a panel discussion for all of our current students, alumni and members of the San Antonio community who are interested in learning more about graduate education.
Graduate School and Research Building (GSR 1.204), Main Campus
The annual UTSA Graduate fair gives students an opportunity to meet representatives who can provide the information on admission requirements, fellowship opportunities, and other key information.
University Center, Main Campus
A recruiter will speak to potential candidates for the Archer program. The Archer program has helped students land successful careers in public service.
Durango Building (DB 2.208), Downtown Campus
Canadian scholar Jasmin Hristov will present a lecture on paramilitarism, complex type of politically-motivated violence in different parts of Latin America. This presentation will explain paramilitary violence as a tool of economic globalization.
Buena Vista St. Bldg., Aula Canaria Lecture Hall (BV 1.328), Downtown Campus
The UTSA College of Engineering Technology Symposium showcases innovative student projects and research performed across multiple disciplines including engineering, science and business. The public is invited.
H-E-B UC Ballroom (HUC 1.104), 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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