Researchers from the Laboratoire de Physiologie Neurovégétative (CNRS-INRA-Université Paul Cézanne), the Laboratoire de Chimie Biologique Appliquée (INRA-Université Paul Cézanne) and from the Département Lipoprotéines et Médiateurs Lipidiques (INSERM, Hopital Purpan Toulouse), and in particular Professor Jean-Pierre Miolan, Dr Jean-Pierre Niel, Directeur de Recherche CNRS, Dr François Tercé, Chargé de Recherche INSERM, Dr Abel Hiol Maître de conférence and Dr Caroline Fasano, author in 2004 of the PhD thesis « Sphingolipides et physiologie des ganglions sympathiques prévertébraux », have succeeded in demonstrating that a neuronal network in mammals can work perfectly with a mode of conduction of excitation that is independent of action potentials.
This new mechanism involves molecules known to play a role in numerous mechanisms of cell functioning, but not hitherto in conduction of excitation. To elucidate this mechanism, the teams have used a model of integrated physiology on an in vitro preparation in the mammal. This study has been performed using neuropharmacological and biochemical techniques.
This study, reporting the first discovery of conduction of excitation without action potentials, opens up new perspectives for research by breaking away from the classic concept of neuronal functioning. The neurons would thus be fitted with two modes of conduction of excitation, fast and slow, which might be used in different circumstances. This would have important consequences in the fields of physiological research and clinical practice.
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The study was published in the online, open-access journal PLoS ONE on 18 July 2007 (Citation: Fasano C, Tercé F, Niel J, Nguyen HTT, Hiol A, et al. (2007) Neuronal Conduction of Excitation without Action Potentials Based on Ceramide Production. PLoS ONE 2(7): e612. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0000612).
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