Do Neurons Work Alone?
"Do the billions of non-neuronal cells in the brain send messages of their own?" Nature's Kerri Smith reports on a change in our understanding of the brain decades in the making.
Ken McCarthy, a geneticist at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine in Chapel Hill, is about to fan the flames of a debate about whether glia, the largest contingent of non-neuronal cells in the brain, are important in transmitting electrical messages. For many years, neurons were thought to be alone in executing this task, and glia were consigned to a supporting role regulating a neuron's environment, helping it to grow, and even providing physical scaffolding (glia is Greek for 'glue'). In the past couple of decades, however, this picture has been changing.