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Mapping the developing brain

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Wouldn’t it be great if we could create a map that sheds crucial light on what makes human brain development distinct? Turns out a team of scientists has created one.

Researchers at the Allen Institute for Brain Science have published an in-depth analysis of a comprehensive molecular atlas of brain development in the non-human primate.

This analysis uncovers features of the genetic code underlying brain development in our close evolutionary relative, while revealing distinct features of human brain development by comparison.

The study is based on the NIH Blueprint Non-Human Primate (NHP) Atlas, which enables researchers to understand the underpinnings of both healthy brain development and many neuropsychiatric diseases.

“This is the most complete spatiotemporal map we have for any mammal’s development, and we have it in a model system that provides directly meaningful insight into human brain development, structure, and function,” said investigator Ed Lein, adding “This exceptional dataset is useful for exploring precisely where and when genes are active in relation to the events of brain development and the onset of brain disorders.”

“While we know many of the details of gene expression in the adult brain, mapping gene expression across development has been one of the missing links for understanding the genetics of disorders like autism and schizophrenia,” said researcher Thomas R. Insel.

“This new atlas will be the foundation for the next generation of studies linking the genetics of neurodevelopmental disorders to the development of specific brain pathways.”

Lein noted, “These findings show the value of closely related non-human primates to study shared characteristics of close evolutionary relatives and to identify unique features of the human brain related to our cognitive abilities and susceptibility to certain diseases.”

ANI

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