JUL 19, 2016 05:37 AM PDT

Learning More About Brain Development

The developing brain is somewhat like a gas guzzling engine, sending signals from neurons to bring more oxygen rich blood into the brain so it can produce more nerve cells. While this goes on constantly in children and adults, a new study shows that in newborns, the process doesn’t go as previously thought. A study done using newborn mice, since their brain development is similar to that of humans, showed that the nerve cells at the newborn stage do not signal the request for more blood flow.
 The newborn brain takes time learning how to signal for new growth
In a paper published in the journal Neuroscience, the team from Columbia University looked at blood flow to the brain during the post natal period, where normally there is a great deal of development. It’s normal for that brain development to be spurred on by an increased blood flow to the brain to feed the growing cells. When the team looked at fMRI scans of newborn human infants, they saw that this process wasn’t always happening and they wanted to find out why. Since fMRI studies are often used to treat and diagnose brain injuries or developmental issues, knowing how blood flow and cellular development occurred was crucial.

Mariel Kozberg MD, PhD, a recent Columbia neurobiology graduate and the paper’s first author said in a press release, “No one knew how to interpret blood-flow responses in the developing brain. In this study, we needed to find out what was different between adult and newborn brains. Were the differences in neural activity itself, or did they lie in the relationship between this activity and local blood flow changes?”
 
Scans were conducted on newborn mice at the age of 7 days old. Touching the mice on their hind paws (similar to the Babinsky reflex in humans) stimulated a great deal of neuronal activity in the mouse brain. What didn’t happen, however, was the corresponding influx of blood flow to the brain.
 
By 13 days, the nerve cell reaction got bigger, spreading across a wider stretch of the brain. Still the blood didn’t come. But by the time the mice reached adulthood, neural activity prompted an influx of blood flow. While it was troubling at first that the newborn mouse brain could not signal its need for oxygen, that lack also seemed to have a strengthening effect. Dr. Kozberg explained, “We know that a lack of oxygen can trigger the growth of blood vessels. So in this case, neural activity in the newborn brain might actually be guiding blood vessels to grow in the right places.” The results of the study seemed to prove that the initial lack of oxygen to the nerve cells caused them to develop stronger over time, resulting in better oxygenation at maturity.
 
Going forward, the team hopes to analyze fMRI scans of newborns to see if they can map out the pattern of blood vessel development as it relates to neuronal signaling. The video below explains in more detail what this study could mean in terms of better understanding the newborn brain.

Sources: Science News 
Columbia University 
Neuroscience 
About the Author
  • I'm a writer living in the Boston area. My interests include cancer research, cardiology and neuroscience. I want to be part of using the Internet and social media to educate professionals and patients in a collaborative environment.
You May Also Like
OCT 21, 2018
Cell & Molecular Biology
OCT 21, 2018
The Nervous System Directly Controls Stem Cell Growth
Our body relies on adult stem cells throughout our lives; we need them to continuously generate new cells as they wear out, like on the skin and in our blood....
NOV 03, 2018
Technology
NOV 03, 2018
Neurotechnology Treats Paralysis
The latest study at the intersection of technology and neuroscience is the STIMO (STImulation Movement Overground) study, which has established the ne...
NOV 05, 2018
Neuroscience
NOV 05, 2018
Stress: Men Vs. Women
Undersatnding the gender specific differences in response to stress...
DEC 05, 2018
Cardiology
DEC 05, 2018
The Case For Sexual Healing In Heart Patients
Sex is an important component in the lives of most healthy adults. As such, it is essential for providers working with post-coronary patients to advise the...
NOV 19, 2018
Neuroscience
NOV 19, 2018
Thalamus plays a role in cognitive flexibility
Cognitive flexibility is our brain's ability to shift from thinking about one thing to another. The higher your speed of moving gears, the greater your cognitive flexibility....
DEC 17, 2018
Health & Medicine
DEC 17, 2018
Light Makes An Itch Go Away!
EMBL researchers have now found a way to stop itch with light in mice. Nature Biomedical Engineering publishes their results on 17 December 2018....
Loading Comments...