Obstetrics & gynaecology

When pregnant moms are stressed out, babies' brains suffer

Knowing that your unborn fetus has congenital heart disease causes such pronounced maternal stress, anxiety and depression that these women's fetuses end up with impaired development in key brain regions before they are born, ...

Neuroscience

Missing protein in brain causes behaviors mirroring autism

Scientists at Rutgers University-Newark have discovered that when a key protein needed to generate new brain cells during prenatal and early childhood development is missing, part of the brain goes haywire—causing an imbalance ...

Neuroscience

Abnormal neuron activity manifests as parental neglect

The brain undergoes dramatic change during the first years of life. Its circuits readily rewire as an infant and then child encounters new sights and sounds, taking in the world and learning to understand it. As the child ...

Health

Plasticizers may contribute to motor control problems in girls

Scientists at the Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health (CCCEH) have uncovered a link between prenatal exposure to phthalates—a ubiquitous group of plasticizers and odor-enhancing chemicals—and deficits ...

Neuroscience

The effect of taking antidepressants during pregnancy

Exposure to antidepressants during pregnancy and the first weeks of life can alter sensory processing well into adulthood, according to research in mice recently published in eNeuro.

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Neural development

The study of neural development draws on both neuroscience and developmental biology to describe the cellular and molecular mechanisms by which complex nervous systems emerge during embryonic development and throughout life.

Some landmarks of embryonic neural development include the birth and differentiation of neurons from stem cell precursors, the migration of immature neurons from their birthplaces in the embryo to their final positions, outgrowth of axons from neurons and guidance of the motile growth cone through the embryo towards postsynaptic partners, the generation of synapses between these axons and their postsynaptic partners, and finally the lifelong changes in synapses which are thought to underlie learning and memory.

Typically, these neurodevelopmental processes can be broadly divided into two classes: activity-independent mechanisms and activity-dependent mechanisms. Activity-independent mechanisms are generally believed to occur as hardwired processes determined by genetic programs played out within individual neurons. These include differentiation, migration and axon guidance to their initial target areas. These processes are thought of as being independent of neural activity and sensory experience. Once axons reach their target areas, activity-dependent mechanisms come into play. Neural activity and sensory experience will mediate formation of new synapses, as well as synaptic plasticity, which will be responsible for refinement of the nascent neural circuits.

Developmental neuroscience uses a variety of animal models including mice Mus musculus , the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster , the zebrafish Danio rerio, Xenopus laevis tadpoles and the worm Caenorhabditis elegans, among others.

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