How Scientists Found a New Neuron Hiding in Our Brains

This never-before-seen neuron was just found in the human brain, and it might hold the secret to what separates us from other animals.

Your brain is full of cells: neurons, and glia. Neurons are the messengers of information; they communicate with each other and with the rest of your nervous system through electrical and chemical signals, and are supported by glial cells. There are three main kinds of neurons: sensory neurons, which communicate information from your senses to your brain; motor neurons, which help you control your body’s movements; and interneurons, which help motor neurons and sensory neurons talk to each other.

The big news is that scientists have just found a new kind of interneuron, called the rosehip cell. What’s particularly exciting about this new research is that scientists are starting to use novel methods to delve into the brain. Recent advances in RNA analysis techniques called transcriptomics allow to see more detail than ever before about how the brain works.

A group at the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle used these RNA sequencing techniques to identify unique gene expression patterns in frozen brain tissue. Meanwhile, a partner research team in Hungary used more traditional slice and dice lab imaging techniques to see evidence of a cell that matched the genetic markers found by the Seattle group.