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The Brain as a ToolA Neuroscientist's Account$
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Ray Guillery

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780198806738

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198806738.001.0001

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Comparative anatomical studies of the hypothalamus that led to studies of thalamic synapses

Comparative anatomical studies of the hypothalamus that led to studies of thalamic synapses

Chapter:
(p.104) Chapter 7 Comparative anatomical studies of the hypothalamus that led to studies of thalamic synapses
Source:
The Brain as a Tool
Author(s):

Ray Guillery

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780198806738.003.0007

The first part of this chapter illustrates the role of serendipity in science. We started a comparative project to understand the differences between reptiles and mammals in terms of their hypothalamic pathways; these studies of reptilian brains revealed tiny fibrillar rings present in axon terminals of lizards kept at low temperatures but absent in those kept warmer. These temperature-dependent fibrillar increases resembled changes seen in some synaptic terminals after their axons have been cut, so we briefly turned our attention to the changing appearances of the fibrils. Mammalian optic nerve fibres that had been cut were known to show particularly dramatic increases of fibrillar structures. Our study of these did not show anything relevant for understanding the functions of the fibrils or their changes; instead they revealed the surprisingly complex system of synaptic structures in the thalamus, clearly demonstrating that the thalamic relay is not as simple as was generally believed. This provided a key to what follows in the rest of this book. This chapter serves to introduce synaptic structures in general, and those of the thalamus in particular. We still do not understand the differences between reptiles and mammals in terms of their hypothalamic pathways, nor do we understand the nature of the fibrillar changes.

Keywords:   serendipity, neurofibrils, neurofilaments, synaptic junctions, mammalian skills

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