Two different groups of researchers, one from Allen Institute and other from a the University of Szeged, Hungary, each stumbling on the cell through a different method, found a type of new brain cell which seems to be unique in humans. It may serve as a fine-scale “volume control” for neural activity in humans, researchers say. The novel type of brain cell is known as a rosehip neuron. Tamás’ team uncovered the neurons as they sifted through samples taken from the brains of two men in their 50s who had died and donated their bodies to science.
Researchers from the Allen Institute zeroed in on the rosehip neurons using genetics: In collaboration with neuroscientists from the J. Craig Venter Institute and other research centers, they looked for gene expression patterns that distinguished different types of brain cells in humans and in mice. The researchers don’t yet know the precise role that rosehip neurons play in the human brain, other than that it’s an inhibitory role. “This is one small suggestion that there’s going to be lots of specialized circuits in the human brain,” the researchers concluded. They hope this discovery could help understand consciousness.