For far too long, the brain’s cells have been divided into doers and helpers. Nerve cells, with their fancy electrochemical signals and complex circuitry, have attracted the attention and awe of scientists trying to understand the biophysical processes underlying thought and memory. Glial cells (the helpers) have seemed less interesting.
Named for glue, glial cells were considered the scaffolding, the housekeepers, the maintenance crew, the infrastructure. They worked in the background so that nerve cells could sparkle and shine.
That simplistic view has been slowly changing, as research has revealed the surprising range of roles that glial cells play. The deeper scientists look at the various types of glia, the more important these cells appear. Over the years, Science News has covered a steady stream of reports