Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Sensory deprivation affects brain’s nerve connections

14.07.2005


Scientists at New York University School of Medicine reveal the important role of early experience in shaping neuronal development and brain plasticity in a new study published in the July 14 issue of the journal Nature.



In mice, the researchers found that sensory deprivation prevented the substantial loss of synapses that typically occurs in growing animals. The effects were most pronounced in the period from young adolescence to adulthood. Synapses are the gaps between neurons through which information travels.

Wen-Biao Gan, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Physiology and Neuroscience, and his colleagues captured images of brain plasticity--its ability to adapt quickly to ever-changing circumstances--and have started to unravel how this dynamic unfolds. The scientists were able to deliver visible evidence of the effect of sensory deprivation.


It is well known that a growing child learns many skills. "What is less known," says Dr. Gan, "is that during childhood until puberty in the human brain, as well as in the monkey and mouse, you see a substantial loss of neuronal connections." In learning, it appears the brain needs to lose as it gains. He believes this loss may well be the fundamental process underlying the development and plasticity of the brain.

After birth, the number of synapses increases and then decreases sharply. From early childhood to adolescence the synaptic loss could be as much as 50 percent.

Dr. Gan believes that in order for learning to occur, the brain’s neurons have to be pruned. "First there is a raw material, and then it is sculpted," he says. In other words, learning isn’t only about making new connections between neurons, he says, it also involves carving neuronal connections.

The authors of the new study are Yi Zuo, Guang Yang, Elaine Kwon, and Dr. Gan of the Molecular Neurobiology Program at the Skirball Institute of Biomolecular Medicine at NYU School of Medicine.

To get a glimpse of living neurons in mice, the researchers employed a laborious technique for shaving the skulls of the animals. This creates an ultrathin window on the brain through which one can peer using a sophisticated optical technique called two-photon fluorescence microscopy. Dr. Gan looked at dendritic spines, which are thorny nubs found all along the branches of neurons. Spines, which are continuously formed and eliminated, are where synapses are made.

Since mice use their whiskers to explore their world, Dr. Gan altered their experience by trimming the whiskers for two weeks on one side of the mice’s snouts. The spines of these mice were then compared to spines in mice of the same age with untrimmed whiskers. Young mice who kept their whiskers showed more spine loss than their whisker-trimmed litter-mates.

In the adult age group, whisker trimming for two weeks appeared to have no significant effect on spine loss. When the sensory deprivation continued for two months, however, spine loss was slightly reduced in adult animals as well. The scientists therefore found that the period of young adolescence to adulthood was particularly susceptible to sensory deprivation.

Interestingly, in adolescent mice the effects of sensory deprivation on spine loss could be largely reversed if whiskers were allowed to re-grow during a subsequent recovery period, says Dr. Gan. However, the effects of sensory deprivation in young adolescence couldn’t be reversed if sensory recovery occurred after the mice reached adulthood. These findings suggest "that childhood experience has a long lasting and perhaps permanent impact on later life," he says.

Marjorie Shaffer | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.nyumc.org

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht New study: How does Europe become a leading player for software and IT services?
03.04.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für System- und Innovationsforschung (ISI)

nachricht Reusable carbon nanotubes could be the water filter of the future, says RIT study
30.03.2017 | Rochester Institute of Technology

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Fighting drug resistant tuberculosis – InfectoGnostics meets MYCO-NET² partners in Peru

28.04.2017 | Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Wireless power can drive tiny electronic devices in the GI tract

28.04.2017 | Medical Engineering

Ice cave in Transylvania yields window into region's past

28.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

Nose2Brain – Better Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis

28.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>