About the book
The neuron-centered view of the brain and spinal cord function and disease is no longer unassailable. It is increasingly apparent that non-neuronal cellular constituents, once regarded as solely homeostatic and ancillary, share with neurons key roles affecting brain communication, including neuroplastic modulation, synapse formation, alteration, and signal coherency. Of these cells, astrocytes are the most abundant, comprising nearly five times the number of neurons present in the brain. All brain synapses, moreover, include astrocytes, which envelope the synaptic junction to form a distinctive tri-partite structure regarded as the operational unit of the synaptic cell to cell communication. Current evidence indicates that in addition to their homeostatic roles, astrocytes complement the fast form of communication characteristic of neurons, by modulating key parameters affecting transmission and promoting slower communication forms like the LTP and LTD, oscillatory patterning, and brain waves. As such astrocytes are now being considered as critical elements in the etiology of many neurological brain diseases, from epilepsy and psychiatric diseases, degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and ALS, to stroke and trauma. Huntington's disease, for example, is characterized by a progressive increase in reactive astrocytes with hypertrophic soma throughout the brain striatum. This book will review the current state of the field, identifying novel features that enable these critical cells to contribute to cognitive function and that give rise to etiopathology when they are impaired.