The discovery of a neural circuit in rats could help scientists better understand blepharospasm and eventually lead to new treatments.

In the February 3 issue of Neuron, neurophysicists from the University of California San Diego describe rats brain circuit, which coordinates sensory input and muscle activity in their whiskers. The neural wiring of rat whiskers appears to be identical to the circuit that controls eye blinking in humans.

The human eyeblink reflex circuit appears to share a common anatomy and physiology with the neural circuit that controls rat whiskers, says David Kleinfeld, Ph.D., principal investigator of the study, This circuit could serve as a model system to deepen our understanding of a pathology in the human eyeblink circuit.

Researchers can develop a better understanding of what causes the eyeblink reflex to go awry in blepharospasm by understanding rat whisker movements, the researchers say.

Until now, treatment for blepharospasm has been mostly trial and error. Our findings should permit a more principled approach to the development of new medications and therapies, says Quoc-Thang Nguyen, Ph.D., co-author of the study.

Vol. No: 142:2Issue: 2/15/05