Human astrocytes are distinct contributors to the complexity of synaptic function

Robert Krencik, Jessy V van Asperen, Erik M Ullian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Cellular components of synaptic circuits have been adjusted for increased human brain size, neural cell density, energy consumption and developmental duration. How does the human brain make these accommodations? There is evidence that astrocytes are one of the most divergent neural cell types in primate brain evolution and it is now becoming clear that they have critical roles in controlling synaptic development, function and plasticity. Yet, we still do not know how the precise developmental appearance of these cells and subsequent astrocyte-derived signals modulate diverse neuronal circuit subtypes. Here, we discuss what is currently known about the influence of glial factors on synaptic maturation and focus on unique features of human astrocytes including their potential roles in regenerative and translational medicine. Human astrocyte distinctiveness may be a major contributor to high level neuronal processing of the human brain and act in novel ways during various neuropathies ranging from autism spectrum disorders, viral infection, injury and neurodegenerative conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalBrain Research Bulletin
StatePublished - Aug 25 2016


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