Mechanisms of neuron-astrocyte interactions

Adriana Rocha, Vitali Matyash


This project aims to understand signaling mechanisms between astrocytes and neurons. We recently have focused on two preparations, the barrel cortex and the medial nucleus of the trapezoid body.

The sensory input of the whiskers in rodents is represented in the somatosensory cortex. Each whisker projects into a defined cortical area, the barrel field. These areas are morphologically delineated and can be recognized in acute brain slices without additional staining. The barrel cortex is a well established model for plasticity since removal of whiskers results in changes of the barrel fields. After stimulation in the cortical layer 4, the input to the barrel field, we can record responses in astrocytes and in neurons by using Ca2+ imaging and patch-clamp recording. While the neuronal activity spreads beyond barrel borders, the astrocyte activity is restricted to the barrel field. We are now particularly interested in the question how astrocyte activity feeds back on neuronal activity. In an ongoing study we try to perturb astrocyte function while simultaneously recording neuronal activity.