The role of mechanical tension in neurons

Jagannathan Rajagopalan, Alireza Tofangchi, M Taher A Saif

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


We used high resolution micromechanical force sensors to study the in vivo mechanical response of embryonic Drosophila neurons. Our experiments show that Drosophila axons have a rest tension of a few nN and respond to mechanical forces in a manner characteristic of viscoelastic solids. In response to fast externally applied stretch they show a linear force-deformation response and when the applied stretch is held constant the force in the axons relaxes to a steady state value over time. More importantly, when the tension in the axons is suddenly reduced by releasing the external force the neurons actively restore the tension, sometimes close to their resting value. Along with the recent findings of Siechen et al (Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 106, 12611 (2009)) showing a link between mechanical tension and synaptic plasticity, our observation of active tension regulation in neurons suggest an important role for mechanical forces in the functioning of neurons in vivo.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationBiological Materials and Structures in Physiologically Extreme Conditions and Disease
Number of pages5
StatePublished - 2010
Event2010 MRS Spring Meeting - San Francisco, CA, United States
Duration: Apr 5 2010Apr 9 2010

Publication series

NameMaterials Research Society Symposium Proceedings
ISSN (Print)0272-9172


Other2010 MRS Spring Meeting
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CitySan Francisco, CA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Materials Science
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering


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