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

Team constructs whole-brain map of electrical connections key to forming memories

November 22, 2017
A team of neuroscientists at the University of Pennsylvania has constructed the first whole-brain map of electrical connectivity in the brain based on data from nearly 300 neurosurgical patients with electrodes implanted ...

To forget or to remember? Memory depends on subtle brain signals, scientists find

November 22, 2017
The fragrance of hot pumpkin pie can bring back pleasant memories of holidays past, while the scent of an antiseptic hospital room may cause a shudder. The power of odors to activate memories both pleasing and aversive exists ...

New research suggests high-intensity exercise boosts memory

November 22, 2017
The health advantages of high-intensity exercise are widely known but new research from McMaster University points to another major benefit: better memory.

Pitch imperfect? How the brain decodes pitch may improve cochlear implants

November 22, 2017
Picture yourself with a friend in a crowded restaurant. The din of other diners, the clattering of dishes, the muffled notes of background music, the voice of your friend, not to mention your own – all compete for your ...

What if consciousness is not what drives the human mind?

November 22, 2017
Everyone knows what it feels like to have consciousness: it's that self-evident sense of personal awareness, which gives us a feeling of ownership and control over the thoughts, emotions and experiences that we have every ...

Now you like it, now you don't: Brain stimulation can change how much we enjoy and value music

November 20, 2017
Enjoyment of music is considered a subjective experience; what one person finds gratifying, another may find irritating. Music theorists have long emphasized that although musical taste is relative, our enjoyment of music, ...

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.