At least this is what the latest research suggests. (Link.)
Neurons communicate through rapid electrical signals that regulate the release of neurotransmitters, the brain's chemical messengers. Once transmitted across a neuron, electrical signals cause the juncture with another neuron, known as a synapse, to release droplets filled with neurotransmitters that pass the information on to the next neuron. This type of neuron-to-neuron communication is known as evoked neurotransmission.
However, some neurotransmitter-packed droplets are released at the synapse even in the absence of electrical impulses. These miniature release events—or minis—have long been regarded as 'background noise', says Brian McCabe, Director of the Laboratory of Neural Genetics and Disease and a Professor in the EPFL Brain Mind Institute.
But several studies have suggested that minis do have a function—and an important one.
In 2014, for example, McCabe and his team showed that minis are important for the development of synapses.
If neurons in the brain were a network of computers, 'evoked releases' would be packets of data, whereas 'minis' would be 'pings'—brief electronic signals that determine if there is a connection between two computers, McCabe says.
"Minis are the pings that neurons use to say 'I am connected.'"
a bit more
increasing the frequency of minis kept synapses intact and preserved the motor ability of middle-aged flies at levels comparable to those of young flies. "Motor ability declines in all aging animals, including humans, so it was a delightful surprise to see that we could change that," McCabe says.
Researched by Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, Switzerland.
I could say this very post of mine is also a kind of 'ping' because I am trying to feel connected to other Snappers while I am working on a short, 5 min long ('Lightning talk') presentation for the (my first) SnapCon(-ference), that will be about my current pet project: my 'baby' (eccentric, therefore not a 'baby' anymore, but more like a 'teenager', I guess) Text Editor.
I wish I could discuss it, but I guess I need to wait until the conference...
Can I post about some problems that I have with it recently?
My project is a 'teenager'. Help me ! :- )