Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Making your brain social: Failure to eliminate links between neurons produces autistic-like mice

03.02.2014
In many people with autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders, different parts of the brain don’t talk to each other very well.

Scientists have now identified, for the first time, a way in which this decreased functional connectivity can come about.

In a study published online today in Nature Neuroscience, scientists at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Monterotondo, Italy, and collaborators at the Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT), in Rovereto, and La Sapienza University in Rome, demonstrate that it can be caused by cells called microglia failing to trim connections between neurons.

“We show that a deficit in microglia during development can have widespread and long-lasting effects on brain wiring and behaviour,” says Cornelius Gross, who led the study. “It leads to weak brain connectivity, decreased social behaviour, and increased repetitive behaviour, all hallmarks of autism.”

The findings indicate that, by trimming surplus connections in the developing brain, microglia allow the remaining links to grow stronger, like high-speed fibre-optic cables carrying strong signals between brain regions. But if these cells fail to do their job at that crucial stage of development, those brain regions are left with a weaker communication network, which in turn has lifelong effects on behaviour.

Yang Zhan, a postdoctoral fellow in Gross’ lab at EMBL, analysed the strength of connections between different areas of brain in mice that were genetically engineered to have fewer microglia during development. Working with Alessandro Gozzi’s lab at IIT and Davide Ragozzino at La Sapienza University, the EMBL scientists combined this approach with high-resolution fMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scans of the mice’s brains, taking full advantage of a novel technique developed at IIT, which enables scientists to obtain detailed, three-dimensional maps of the brain’s functional connections.
The team found that mice with fewer microglia had weaker connections between neurons, and less cross-talk between different brain regions. When Rosa Paolicelli, a PhD student in Gross’ lab, studied the mice’s behaviour, she discovered that mice with fewer microglia and decreased connectivity displayed behaviours commonly associated with autism spectrum disorders. These mice spent more time repeatedly grooming themselves, and avoided social interactions.

“This is an exciting time to be studying microglia,” Gross concludes: “they’re turning out to be major players in how our brain gets wired up.”

To be published online in Nature Neuroscience on 2 February 2014. DOI: 10.1038/nn.364.

Policy regarding use

EMBL press and picture releases including photographs, graphics and videos are copyrighted by EMBL. They may be freely reprinted and distributed for non-commercial use via print, broadcast and electronic media, provided that proper attribution to authors, photographers and designers is made.

Sonia Furtado Neves
EMBL Press Officer and Deputy Head of Communications
Meyerhofstr. 1, 69117 Heidelberg, Germany
Tel.: +49 (0)6221 387 8263
Fax: +49 (0)6221 387 8525
sonia.furtado@embl.de

Sonia Furtado Neves | EMBL Research News
Further information:
http://www.embl.org

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Ravens understand the relations among others
23.04.2014 | University of Vienna

nachricht Loss of memory in Alzheimer's mice models reversed through gene therapy
23.04.2014 | Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Siemens at the 2014 UIC ERTMS World Conference in Istanbul

01.04.2014 | Event News

AERA Meeting: German and US-American educational researchers in dialogue

28.03.2014 | Event News

WHS Regional Meeting: International experts address health challenges in Latin America

24.03.2014 | Event News

 
Latest News

High-Calorie and Low-Nutrient Foods in Kids' TV

23.04.2014 | Studies and Analyses

A three dimensional biodegradable hydrogel for treating gum diseases

23.04.2014 | Materials Sciences

Malaysian and Taiwanese researchers make major advances in dye sensitized solar cells

23.04.2014 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>