Important findings about dendritic action potentials that clarify human behaviour oversimplified by IFLScience
Katy Evans from IFLScience reports on Science article “Dendritic action potentials and computation in human layer 2/3 cortical neurons”. In the referenced research, Gidon and colleagues describe a newly discovered mammalian dendritic action potential that relies mainly on calcium signaling. This highly excitable action potential is found in human L2/3 dendrites and have not yet been described in other mammals. The action potential also seems to be specific to this area of the neocortex, as neurons in other layers exhibit reduced excitability in comparison. The researchers also determine that the specific action potential is not “confined by pathology”, upon examining brain tissues of epilepsy patients and patients with brain tumours. As current knowledge on dendritic activity is mostly extracted from rodent studies, this work is important in understanding human cortical network behaviour and how it may differ from other mammalian species.
The referenced IFLScience article oversimplifies this research by suggesting this new action potential may be the key to “what makes us human”. It appears that the author is trying to relate the research to a generalized audience, but in doing so misinterprets the rationale of the study, which is to investigate dendritic signalling in humans. While the author is correct in determining that the research focuses on human signalling, to make such a broad statement about human “uniqueness” is unjustifiable. Additionally, the author does not explicitly state what this means, further complicating the message that Evans is trying to get across to readers. Otherwise, the author correctly describes the patch-clamp methodology, the newly discovered calcium-specific action potential, and research limitations. Overall, the author efficiently describes key points of this research, even if edging onto speciesism.
In this news article, Katy Evans from IFLScience reports on the latest research published in Science regarding a newly discovered class of action potentials in the dendrites of neurons. In the referenced article, Gidon and colleagues discussed the discovery of previously unknown calcium-mediated dendritic action potentials (dCaAPs) that are found in L2/3 dendrites of humans. This new class of action potential is not seen in other animal models and is specific to the human neocortex layer, such that the “pyramidal neurons of the human neocortex were recently reported to have reduced dendritic excitability compared with their homolog neurons in rodents.” In addition, dCaAPs also appeared to be present in the temporal lobe neurons of epilepsy patients and neurons from various neocortical areas in tumor patients, indicating signs that dCaAPs do not express brain region specificity or relations regarding pathology.
Evans reports in the introduction that this new brain signal process “may be key to what makes us human”, appearing to overexaggerate and generalize the research presented. Perhaps this was used as means to catch the attention of the target audience and in doing so, altered the context of this research. In addition, Evans failed to include perspectives from multiple sources, thus undermining the overall credibility of the article.
Nevertheless, the author has successfully explained the main points of the research in language suitable for the target audience, clarifying any unfamiliar jargon. In addition, the article was presented in a clean and streamlined layout, allowing for an easy read. Overall, this was a well-written piece that would benefit from including multiple perspectives to further improve the credibility of this news article.
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