Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Rat Brain – Human Brain

“How is it that rats are often used for studies and then someone thinks the conclusions can translate to humans?” Good question. First, studies have shown that rat brains are more like human brains than one might think. Neuroscientists face a multitude of challenges trying to better understand the human brain. Because of model organisms such as the rat, researchers are able to discover information that might not otherwise be known because some experiments would be impossible to do on humans. What are some of the similarities? For starters a recent paper published in the journal Frontiers in Neural Circuits by Jared Smith and Kevin Alloway indicated the discovery of a parallel between the motor cortices of rats and humans that signifies a greater relevance of the rat model to studies of the human brain than scientists had previously known. For another, rat and human brains have more than 30 identical peptides. Peptides are molecules consisting of two or more amino acids that impact mood; some are hormones, others are neurotransmitters, and some are a combination of both. Therefore, depending on the topic under research, what happens in the rat brain may be very similar to what goes on in the human brain. Maybe being called a “rat” isn’t so far off base after all . . .

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