Burst of fetal neural activity necessary for vision

October 11, 2012
Let there be sight:  Burst of neural activity necessary for vision

(Medical Xpress)—A sudden and mysterious burst of activity originating in the retina of a developing fetus spurs brain connections that are essential to development of finely-tuned sight, Yale researchers report in the journal Nature. Interference with this spontaneous wave of activity could play a role in neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism, the scientists speculate.

The study in mice is the first to demonstrate in a living animal that this wave of activity spreads throughout large regions of the brain and is crucial to wiring of the visual system. Without the wiring, infants would not be able to distinguish details in their environment.

"If you interfere with this activity, the circuits are all messed up, the wiring details are all wrong," said Michael Crair, the William Ziegler III Professor of Neurobiology and Professor of Ophthalmology and and senior author of the study.

For instance, this activity might allow a newborn human baby to perceive such details as the five fingers attached to her hand or her mother's face. This wave wires up the visual system so that infants are poised to learn from their environment soon after birth.


Video: A wave of 'spontaneous' activity sweeps across of in the mid-brain of a 6-day old mouse.  Such activity primes the developing , enabling mice to process visual information after they open their eyes, usually between 10 days and two weeks.

The development of animals from a fertilized egg into trillions of intricately connected and specialized cells is the result of a precisely timed expression of genes. However, the Nature paper introduces another necessary factor—a mysterious wave of activity arising in the retina itself that propagates through several regions of the brain. Crair terms this wave an emergent property, or a trait possessed by a complex system that cannot be directly traced to its individual parts. This experiment in living, neonatal mice shows that this wave is crucial to the proper wiring not only of the visual system but other brain areas as well.

Crair said his lab plans to explore whether interruptions of this activity might play a role in such as autism or schizophrenia.

Explore further: Timing is key in the proper wiring of the brain: study

Related Stories

Timing is key in the proper wiring of the brain: study

December 19, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- After birth, the developing brain is largely shaped by experiences in the environment. However, neurobiologists at Yale and elsewhere have also shown that for many functions the successful wiring of neural ...

Sight requires exact pattern of neural activity to be wired in the womb

June 22, 2011
The precise wiring of our visual system depends upon the pattern of spontaneous activity within the brain that occurs well before birth, a new study by Yale researchers shows.

Scientists map the frontiers of vision

January 6, 2012
There's a 3-D world in our brains. It's a landscape that mimics the outside world, where the objects we see exist as collections of neural circuits and electrical impulses.

New study examines brain processes behind facial recognition

April 18, 2011
When you think you see a face in the clouds or in the moon, you may wonder why it never seems to be upside down.

Studies show importance of visual stimulation in wiring up species' brains to see

June 5, 2011
Any parent knows that newborns still have a lot of neurological work to do to attain fully acute vision. In a wide variety of nascent animals, genes provide them with only a rough wiring plan and then leave it to the developing ...

Competition between brain cells spurs memory circuit development

June 23, 2011
Scientists at the University of Michigan Health System have for the first time demonstrated how memory circuits in the brain refine themselves in a living organism through two distinct types of competition between cells.

Recommended for you

How a seahorse-shaped brain structure may help us recognize others

December 8, 2017
How do we recognize others? How do we know friend from foe, threat from reward? How does the brain compute the multitude of cues telling us that Susan is not Erica even though they look alike? The complexity of social interactions—human ...

Brain networks that help babies learn to walk ID'd

December 8, 2017
Scientists have identified brain networks involved in a baby's learning to walk—a discovery that eventually may help predict whether infants are at risk for autism.

Why we can't always stop what we've started

December 7, 2017
When we try to stop a body movement at the last second, perhaps to keep ourselves from stepping on what we just realized was ice, we can't always do it—and Johns Hopkins University neuroscientists have figured out why.

Mutations in neurons accumulate as we age: The process may explain normal cognitive decline and neurodegeneration

December 7, 2017
Scientists have wondered whether somatic (non-inherited) mutations play a role in aging and brain degeneration, but until recently there was no good technology to test this idea. A study published online today in Science, ...

Researchers launch atlas of developing human brain

December 7, 2017
The human brain has been called the most complex object in the cosmos, with 86 billion intricately interconnected neurons and an equivalent number of supportive glial cells. One of science's greatest mysteries is how an organ ...

How we learn: Mastering the features around you rather than learning about individual objects

December 7, 2017
A Dartmouth-led study on how we learn finds that humans tend to rely on learning about the features of an object, rather than on the individual object itself.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Tausch
not rated yet Oct 11, 2012
This wave wires up the visual system so that infants are poised to learn from their environment soon after birth. - Article


Yes. Congratulations.

Learning's first 'environment' is the womb - uterus 'equipped' life forms.

Sooner or later researchers must introduce a definition of the word 'learn' - custom-tailored to meet all data and observation.

This 'wave' referred to here reminds me of the 'wave' observed here:
http://phys.org/n...een.html

How this 'wave' arises is also unknown.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.