Brain Health,

#222: What are “Fast-Spiking Interneurons”?

March 23, 2018

You may not have heard of interneurons.

The roles they play, although not fully understood, are vital in bringing the billions of “normal” neurons into the cohesive network better known as a brain.  Officially, an interneuron is:

Interneuron:  A nerve cell found entirely within the central nervous system that acts as a link between sensory neurons and motor neurons.

“Fast-Spiking” Interneurons are a sub-group of interneurons that have held a special curiosity for researchers like Dr. Scott Owen (now a staff scientist at the Gladstone Institutes).  It was believed that their function might be directly linked to motor control issues – and that disabling them would lead to nervous ticks, spasmodic movements, and an inability to exert precise motor control.  Dr. Owen and his research team set out to study this – with the expectation of confirming an increasingly well-established theory.

And that’s when things got interesting.

In Episode #222, Dr. Owen walks us through his story of research, surprise, and discovery – including fresh findings on how fast-spiking interneurons may be crucial for learning.  It’s a modern science story of lemons-into-lemonade, and all the future research that the newly-discovered lemonade still requires.  😉

As Promised: Voluntary Goosebumps

In Episode #222’s This Week in Neuroscience, we discuss the recent findings about the (very) rare class of people who can give themselves “piloerection” (better known as goosebumps) just by thinking about it.  The full paper, in pre-print edition, can be found here.


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Show Notes
  • 00:00:23

    Episode introduction: What are "Fast-Spiking Interneurons"?

  • 00:01:27

    This Week In Neuroscience: Voluntary Goosebumps.

  • 00:04:17

    5-Star review shoutouts.

  • 00:04:40

    SDS news and updates.

  • 00:05:35

    Guest introduction: Dr. Scott Owen.

  • 00:07:13

    Interview begins.

  • 00:08:30

    Dr. Owen's previous research on autism and the activation of fast-spiking neurons in the hippocampus with oxytocin.

  • 00:10:28

    Research on movement disorders and how these cells impact the overall circuit in vivo.

  • 00:12:55

    Bursts of activity and synaptic plasticity!

  • 00:15:26

    The development of this research.

  • 00:18:10

    The current understanding of how these cells tie-in with learning.

  • 00:20:31

    Classifying interneurons.

  • 00:22:30

    Brain circuits versus brain networks.

  • 00:24:02

    Development and migration of fast-spiking interneurons.

  • 00:25:33


  • 00:29:06

    Changes in synaptic strength.

  • 00:33:16

    Interview wrap-up.

  • 00:34:16

    Ruthless Listener Retention Gimmick: Optimism bias towards others.

  • 00:37:47

    Episode wrap-up.

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