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 from the University of Halle: How climate change alters plant growth
12.01.2018 | Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg

nachricht Disarray in the brain
18.12.2017 | Universität zu Lübeck

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: Artificial agent designs quantum experiments

On the way to an intelligent laboratory, physicists from Innsbruck and Vienna present an artificial agent that autonomously designs quantum experiments. In initial experiments, the system has independently (re)discovered experimental techniques that are nowadays standard in modern quantum optical laboratories. This shows how machines could play a more creative role in research in the future.

We carry smartphones in our pockets, the streets are dotted with semi-autonomous cars, but in the research laboratory experiments are still being designed by...

Im Focus: Scientists decipher key principle behind reaction of metalloenzymes

So-called pre-distorted states accelerate photochemical reactions too

What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...

Im Focus: The first precise measurement of a single molecule's effective charge

For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.

Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...

Im Focus: Paradigm shift in Paris: Encouraging an holistic view of laser machining

At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.

No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...

Im Focus: Room-temperature multiferroic thin films and their properties

Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and Tohoku University have developed high-quality GFO epitaxial films and systematically investigated their ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties. They also demonstrated the room-temperature magnetocapacitance effects of these GFO thin films.

Multiferroic materials show magnetically driven ferroelectricity. They are attracting increasing attention because of their fascinating properties such as...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

10th International Symposium: “Advanced Battery Power – Kraftwerk Batterie” Münster, 10-11 April 2018

08.01.2018 | Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Let the good tubes roll

19.01.2018 | Materials Sciences

How cancer metastasis happens: Researchers reveal a key mechanism

19.01.2018 | Health and Medicine

Meteoritic stardust unlocks timing of supernova dust formation

19.01.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>