2021. March 4., Thursday
News  --  Explore


What makes the human brain?

A breakthrough has been achieved by the examination of a new type of neuron called ‘rosehip’ neuron, which has not been observed before in any kind of laboratory animals. The discovery is the result of cooperation between biologist professor Gábor Tamás and scientists of the Allen Institute for Brain Science. The single-cell based method leading to a fundamental result can be used in diagnostics.

The new type of neuron discovered by academician Gábor Tamás and his team in the Cervical Neuronal Network Research Group of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (MTA) and the University of Szeged (SZTE) was named ‘rosehip’ nerve cell owing to its shape. ‘ ‘Rosehip’ neurons belong to the group of so-called inhibiting cells. The strategies of these cells are that they do not randomly spread their synapses, their connections to the so-called ‘pyramid cells’ and other neurons commonly found in another part of the cerebral cortex, but they select sites carefully. The specialty of the ‘rosehip’ is that it creates its relationships with other neurons with precision that we did not know was possible. For this reason, this cell has functions that are not available in other systems’ Gábor Tamás, professor of the Department of Life Sciences, Organizational and Neurosciences ‘This ‘rosehip’ has an ability which acts as if the branches in the delta of river Danube were disconnected one by one. My colleague Gábor Molnár examined how the waves flow between the ‘pyramid cells’ , from the centre of these cells to the end of dendrits, which are then quasi ‘amputated’ by the ‘rosehip neuron’ referred to the division of labour within the research group the academician who is also co-chair of the National Research Program’s Discoveries Pillar.


‘I and my colleague Eszter Boldog found some key genes a few years ago that are characteristic of these nerve cells. We were primarily interested in the function of these cells: we wanted to know what they look like and how they are built into the surrounding neural networks’ the professor of the SZTE recalled the beginnings. ‘We started to investigate the messenger RNA s of the ‘rosehip’ cells, systematically using the method developed jointly with the group of László Puskás, working for the Szeged Biological Research Centre of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.’ The Allen Institute for Brain Science deals with the special properties of the human brain. I became member of the institute’s advisory body because - thanks to neurosurgeon Professor Pál Barzó and our collaboration with the Department of Neurosurgery - our laboratory had developed a method since the early 2000s that was later taken over by many laboratories. We taught these how tests based on human brain tissue have to be performed. As this project was progressing, several issues emerged that made the need for co-operation between them and us obvious’ the academician explained. This co-operation with the Allen Institute for Brain Science now has a formal basis: the US National Institutes of Health have decided to consider the „How many kinds of cells does the brain consist of?” problem as a central issue and provide a significant amount of support for this research. In this prominent research, only two other European laboratories can participate. The first fruit of the project on the ‘rosehip’ nerve going on for 2 years within this formalized framework is the publication issued in the Nature Neuroscience journal on August 27th, 2018.


The American Institute found that 11 human nerve cells can be found in the outermost layer of the cerebral cortex, while only 4 in that of the mouse. The common denominator between the cells of the cerebral cortex of these two creatures is just one cell type: the neuroglia form cell, which is probably a very ancient cell, which explains why it functions somewhat differently than the others - pointed out the professor of the SZTE this new context. He expects that the number of cell types that make up the brain will be between 70 and 100. Currently, about 10 cell types are distinguished in the first of the six-layers of the cortex studied by the researchers of the University of Szeged. ’What is shocking is not the fact that there is a cell that is certainly not present in the mouse, but the fact that the majority of human neurons are molecularly different from the cells of the most commonly used animal model’ emphasized Gábor Tamás. As a next step, they would like to find out whether ’rosehip’ neurons are present outside the examined parts of the cortex. The MTA-SZTE research group has also begun to study whether ‘rosehip’ neurons change in different neurological disorders, i.e. in diseases. ‘We want to know how some cell types or their networks function together in various diseases.’

Ilona Újszászi

Photo: Anna Bobkó

SZTE Experience


Ferdous Rahman – Faculty of Law and Political Sciences

My name is Ferdous Rahman and I am from Bangladesh. I am pursuing doctoral studies at the Department of Private International Law at the Faculty of Law and Political Science under the Stipendium Hungaricum Programme. Currently I am in the first year of my four-year PhD programme. I came to know about SZTE while exploring for the Stipendium Hungaricum programme. Among the other available options, this was my first choice. Apart from its excellent ranking, I got my supervisor with similar research interest. The increasing number of international students gave me a comfort of having a cosmopolitan environment. After starting my studies here in September 2019, I am convinced that I could not expect more. For prospective students, I would advise that SZTE can be their next home as I got mine. Everyone here including the professors, the administrators, and the students are very friendly and helpful. They make studies a joyous journey instead of pile of classes and books. After my graduation, I will return to my home country. The knowledge and the experience that I have been receiving here will be a great resource for my academic career. I intend to continue my research further and expect to contribute to policy formulation at national and international level."


Ahmad Adha - Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

I am Ahmad Adha from Indonesia and currently a 3rd year student in Theoretical Linguistics PhD program. I chose the University of Szeged (SZTE) as my study destination because it is located in the center of the town and it is also the highest ranked university in Hungary. The university staff and the professors were very accommodating and understanding when I decided to change the program that suits my research topic. I am so glad that I can be a part of my current department, and of course SZTE, since it is also the Center of Pragmatic Research which aims to promote advanced linguistic pragmatic research with international collaborations. After graduating, I wish to continue to work in my academic field as a professor and a researcher. My advice for prospective SZTE students is to choose a university with a good academic reputation that fits their passion.