Unsupervised Thinking
a podcast about neuroscience, artificial intelligence and science more broadly

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Episode 43: What Are Glia Up To?

Despite the fact that the brain is full of them, glial cells don't get much attention from neuroscientists. The traditional view of these non-neurons is that they are supportive cells---there to silently help neurons do what they need to do. On this episode we start by describing this traditional view, including types of glial cells and their roles. Then we get into the more interesting stuff. How do glia communicate with each other and with neurons? Turns out there are many chemical messages that get sent between these different cell types, including via the energy molecule ATP! We then talk about the ways in which these messages impact neurons and reasons why the role of glia may be hard for neuroscientists to see. In particular, glia seem to have a lot to say about the birth and control of synapses, making them important for scientists interested in learning. Finally we cover some of the diseases related to glia, such as multiple sclerosis and (surprisingly) depression. Throughout, we ask if glia are important for computation, and relatedly, how the hell do we define computation? Also Grace is weirded out that glia are everywhere but nobody is talking about (or drawing) them.

We read:
The Mystery and Magic of Glia
Glia: Listening and Talking to the Synapse

And mentioned some topics covered in previous episodes:
Understanding fMRI
Also, to hear more about special guest Nancy Padilla's research, check out our previous episode with her on Social Neuroscience

To listen to (or download) this episode, (right) click here

As always, our jazzy theme music "Quirky Dog" is courtesy of Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)

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