Latest campus and coronavirus information Roadrunner Roadmap
Friday, February 26, 2021

Team makes breakthrough discovery on brain cortex functionality

Team makes breakthrough discovery on brain cortex functionality

OCTOBER 22, 2020 — A team of researchers from UTSA’s Neurosciences Institute is challenging the historical belief that the organization of the cortical circuit of GABAergic neurons is exclusively local.

College of Sciences researchers Alice Bertero, Hector Zurita and Marc Normandin and biology associate professor Alfonso Junior Apicella collaborated on the research project.

In the past, labeling individual neurons allowed researchers to study the neurons that project from the brain’s cortex to the striatum. The results suggested that the pathways are exclusively excitatory. For this reason most people assumed that inhibition must occur when excitatory cortical neurons activate intrastriatal inhibitory.

The UTSA team contested this view by providing anatomical and physiological evidence for the existence of long-range parvalbumin-expression neurons from the cortex to the striatum in the brains of mice.

This could lead to new treatments for patients with epilepsy, post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia and other mental conditions.

This finding is an essential step toward better understanding the neuronal mechanism of cortical long-range GABAerginc neurons in healthy and diseased brains. In particular this could lead to new treatments for patients with epilepsy, post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia and other mental conditions in which GABAergic neurons play a significant role.

“Daily we are bombarded by multiple auditory stimuli, including various speeches,” said Apicella. “Particularly, listeners must determine which speech acoustic features are relevant and generalize across irrelevant ones during speech perception. We think that the interaction between the cortex and the striatum is fundamental to optimize nonnative speech learning in adulthood. Therefore, it is crucial to determine which of the cortical-striatum pathway’s cellular elements are involved in this process.”

The discovery that the striatum receives both excitatory and inhibitory inputs from the cortex suggests that these inputs’ timing and relative strength can modulate the striatum’s activity. This is important because it invites the scientific community to speculate that the long-range parvalbumin-expressing projects could play a role through gamma oscillation synchronization between the auditory cortex and striatum.

Explore the research of UTSA’s Neurosciences Institute.
Learn more about the College of Sciences.

The team proposes that future experiments will provide further insight into the role of the timing and ratio of excitation and inhibition, two opposing forces in the mammalian cerebral cortex, affecting the cortico-striatal dynamic.

“Future studies,” said Apicella, “will provide a general mechanism of cortico-striatal oscillation involved in reward learning and action-selection behavior driven by the auditory stimuli.”

Lauren Moriarty

UTSA Today is produced by University Strategic Communications,
the official news source
of The University of Texas at San Antonio.

Send your feedback to

UTSA Today is produced by University Communications and Marketing, the official news source of The University of Texas at San Antonio. Send your feedback to Keep up-to-date on UTSA news by visiting UTSA Today. Connect with UTSA online at Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Instagram.




UTSA begins construction on data science school, cybersecurity center

UTSA’s Mission

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.

UTSA’s Vision

To be a premier public research university, providing access to educational excellence and preparing citizen leaders for the global environment.

UTSA’s Core Values

We encourage an environment of dialogue and discovery, where integrity, excellence, inclusiveness, respect, collaboration and innovation are fostered.

UTSA’S Destinations

UTSA is a proud Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) as designated by the U.S. Department of Education.

Our Commitment to Inclusivity

The University of Texas at San Antonio, a Hispanic Serving Institution situated in a global city that has been a crossroads of peoples and cultures for centuries, values diversity and inclusion in all aspects of university life. As an institution expressly founded to advance the education of Mexican Americans and other underserved communities, our university is committed to ending generations of discrimination and inequity. UTSA, a premier public research university, fosters academic excellence through a community of dialogue, discovery and innovation that embraces the uniqueness of each voice.