In a groundbreaking study, researchers have uncovered new insights into the development of the human brain after birth. Contrary to previous understanding, the study suggests that the brain continues to be built for a much longer period than previously recognized. This extended period of brain development plays a crucial role in the development of essential brain functions such as learning, memory, and spatial navigation.
Led by Shawn Sorrells, an assistant professor of neuroscience at the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, the research focused on postnatal brain development. The findings, published in the journal Nature, shed light on the fundamental processes that contribute to the formation of important brain functions.
One key finding from the study is the discovery that a subset of inhibitory neurons within the entorhinal cortex (EC) continues to migrate into this region after birth, building new neuronal connections during infancy and toddlerhood. The entorhinal cortex, known for its role in memory formation, plays a vital role in the brain’s ability to create and store memories.
The study suggests that this extensive postnatal neuronal migration across the EC may underlie critical periods of neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s ability to adapt and change, making it particularly receptive to new experiences and learning during specific developmental stages. Understanding this process is crucial for understanding how the brain develops and adapts to its environment.
This groundbreaking research also sheds light on the susceptibility of EC neurons to neurodegeneration, particularly in conditions like Alzheimer’s disease. Previous studies have found that this specific type of neuron is affected early in the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. The study’s findings provide a possible explanation for this susceptibility, as the migration and formation of new connections within the EC continue long after birth.
The research team conducted their study by analyzing brain samples from various sources, including the epilepsy tissue bank at UPMC Children’s Hospital and the Neuropathology Department at UPMC Presbyterian Hospital. The samples allowed them to observe the extent and duration of neuronal migration within regions of the brain that control thoughts and emotions.
This exciting discovery offers a crucial explanation for how the human brain generates billions of new neurons within a short timeframe. The mechanism behind this process allows neurons to continue arriving and establishing connections well into early childhood.
According to Sorrells, the common belief was that the brain finishes recruiting neurons by the time an individual is born. However, this study’s findings highlight the continuous neuronal migration that occurs within specific regions of the brain, even during the early stages of childhood development.
The implications of this research are vast and have the potential to significantly enhance our understanding of brain development. By unraveling the intricate processes involved in postnatal brain development, scientists can gain new insights into how the brain adapts and learns. This knowledge may have profound implications for therapies and interventions targeting neurodevelopmental disorders and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.
Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
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