Links for Keyword: Development of the Brain

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By Ingrid Wickelgren In a room tucked next to the reception desk in a colorful lobby of a Park Avenue office tower, kids slide into the core of a white cylinder and practice something kids typically find quite difficult: staying still. Inside the tunnel, a child lies on her back and looks up at a television screen, watching a cartoon. If her head moves, the screen goes blank, motivating her to remain motionless. This dress rehearsal, performed at The Child Mind Institute, prepares children emotionally and physically to enter a real magnet for a scan of their brain. The scan is not part of the child’s treatment; it is his or her contribution to science. What scientists learn from hundreds to thousands of brain scans from children who are ill, as well as those who are not, is likely to be of enormous benefit to children in the future. The Child Mind Institute is a one-of-a-kind facility dedicated to the mental health of children. Its clinicians offer state-of-the-art treatments for children with psychiatric disorders. (For more on its clinical services see my previous post, “Minding Our Children’s Minds.”) In addition to spotting and treating mental illness, The Child Mind Institute is dedicated to improving both through science. Its researchers are helping build a repository of brain scans to better understand both ordinary brain development and how mental illness might warp that process. Tracking the developmental trajectory of mental illness is a critical, overlooked enterprise. Almost three quarters of psychiatric disorders start before age 24 and psychological problems in childhood often portend bona fide, or more severe, diagnoses in adults. If scientists can pinpoint changes that forecast a mental disorder, they might be able to diagnose an incipient disease, when it might be preventable, and possibly target the troublesome circuits through therapy. Certain brain signatures might also provide information about disease risk and prognosis, and about what types of treatments might work best for an individual. © 2012 Scientific American

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 16: Psychopathology: Biological Basis of Behavior Disorders
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 12: Psychopathology: Biological Basis of Behavioral Disorders
Link ID: 17253 - Posted: 09.13.2012

By JUDITH SHULEVITZ MOTHERHOOD begins as a tempestuously physical experience but quickly becomes a political one. Once a woman’s pregnancy goes public, the storm moves outside. Don’t pile on the pounds! Your child will be obese. Don’t eat too little, or your baby will be born too small. For heaven’s sake, don’t drink alcohol. Oh, please: you can sip some wine now and again. And no matter how many contradictory things the experts say, don’t panic. Stress hormones wreak havoc on a baby’s budding nervous system. All this advice rains down on expectant mothers for the obvious reason that mothers carry babies and create the environments in which they grow. What if it turned out, though, that expectant fathers molded babies, too, and not just by way of genes? Biology is making it clearer by the day that a man’s health and well-being have a measurable impact on his future children’s health and happiness. This is not because a strong, resilient man has a greater likelihood of being a fabulous dad — or not only for that reason — or because he’s probably got good genes. Whether a man’s genes are good or bad (and whatever “good” and “bad” mean in this context), his children’s bodies and minds will reflect lifestyle choices he has made over the years, even if he made those choices long before he ever imagined himself strapping on a Baby Bjorn. Doctors have been telling men for years that smoking, drinking and recreational drugs can lower the quality of their sperm. What doctors should probably add is that the health of unborn children can be affected by what and how much men eat; the toxins they absorb; the traumas they endure; their poverty or powerlessness; and their age at the time of conception. In other words, what a man needs to know is that his life experience leaves biological traces on his children. Even more astonishingly, those children may pass those traces along to their children. © 2012 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 17240 - Posted: 09.10.2012

by Sara Reardon The carnival trick of guessing a person's age has just gained a lot more rigour. A new brain imaging technique can predict a child's age to within a year. The technique could be useful for determining whether a child is developing normally, or confirm that a young person is the age they say they are. There is no doubt that children of the same age often have vast differences in their maturity and mental ability, says Timothy Brown of the University of California in San Diego. But what hasn't been clear is how much of that difference is psychological and how much is biological. To simplify the question, Brown and his colleagues looked at brain structure rather than brain activity. Working with 10 hospitals in different parts of the US, they recruited 885 children and young adults between the ages of 3 and 20. They ensured that the participants represented many different races, socioeconomic statuses and education levels. The group performed structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) on the young peoples' brains. The images showed features such as the size of each brain region, the level of connectivity between neurons, and how much white matter was insulating the neurons. By putting all these features together in an algorithm, the researchers formed a picture of what the average brain looks like at each year of childhood. Different areas and features of the brain varied between individuals, but the algorithm correctly predicted a child's age to within a year in 92 per cent of cases. © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 2: Functional Neuroanatomy: The Nervous System and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 2: Cells and Structures: The Anatomy of the Nervous System
Link ID: 17181 - Posted: 08.18.2012

By Scicurious Our brains are made of millions of neurons. Tons. A lot. We scientists spend a lot of time studying those neurons, how they function individually, and how they respond to outside stimulation. But neurons cannot function alone. What sets a neuron apart is its ability to carry electric signals and to transfer chemical signals to other neurons. The function of neurons is not in the neurons themselves, it is in the connection between them. And this incredibly complicated network, composed of billions of connections, is called the connectome. If we knew the connectome of the human, we’d know a lot more about the brain than we do now. We are learning it, little by little, but with a series of connections that are so incredibly vast, it’s just too much right now to examine every single possible connection. Right now the only way to ensure getting every single connection in painstaking detail is to use electron microscopy to view synapses, the connections between neurons. Concentrations of the little organelles which signify a synapse (such as vesicles full of neurotransmitter), can tell you where each connection is placed. But the electron microscope can only look at a very small section at a time, making the mapping of a connectome an incredibly arduous task. C. elegans, to be exact. The nematode is a darling of basic research, and for a very good reason. C. elegans is incredibly simple, having exactly 302 neurons in the entire body. Well, 302, or 383. There are two kinds of C. elegans, hermaphrodite and male (there are no females). The males mate with the hermaphrodites. But this means that the male C. elegans is slightly different from the hermaphrodite C. elegans. While the hermaphrodite has 302 neurons, the male has 383. And most of these appear to be devoted to a complex series of behaviors characteristic of mating. © 2012 Scientific American,

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 12: Sex: Evolutionary, Hormonal, and Neural Bases
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 8: Hormones and Sex
Link ID: 17138 - Posted: 08.07.2012

by Michael Marshall The relatively sophisticated brain of a songbird has been transplanted into the body of a distantly related, less intelligent species. The study could help us understand how brains develop, perhaps opening the way to treating some brain conditions. Since 2009, Chun-Chun Chen of Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, has performed over 100 brain transplants in birds. In her latest study she transferred the cells destined to become the forebrain of zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata) into Japanese quail (Coturnix japonica) embryos, after removing the equivalent quail cells. After the transplants, Chen incubated the eggs for up to 16 days, before opening them to find that the transplanted cells had integrated into their hosts, forming the normal neural pathways. None of the chimeric embryos hatched, however, perhaps because their hybrid brains could not trigger breathing. Chen says she will try to crack the hatching problem by transplanting just half a zebra finch forebrain, leaving half the quail forebrain still in place. Researchers have been attempting such transplants for decades. In 1957, Petar Martinovitch of Yale University transplanted the heads of one set of chicken embryos to another (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol 43, p 354). Few survived. © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 6: Evolution of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 17134 - Posted: 08.07.2012

By RODNEY MUHUMUZA KITGUM, Uganda — Augustine Languna's eyes welled up and then his voice failed as he recalled the drowning death of his 16-year-old daughter. The women near him looked away, respectfully avoiding the kind of raw emotion that the head of the family rarely displayed. "What is traumatizing us," he said after regaining his composure, "is that the well where she died is where we still go for drinking water." Joyce Labol was found dead about three years ago. As she bent low to fetch water from a pond a half mile from Languna's compound of thatched huts, an uncontrollable spasm overcame her. The teen was one of more than 300 young Ugandans who have died as a result of the mysterious illness that is afflicting more and more children across northern Uganda and in pockets of South Sudan. The disease is called nodding syndrome, or nodding head disease, because those who have it nod their heads and sometimes go into epileptic-like fits. The disease stunts children's growth and destroys their cognition, rendering them unable to perform small tasks. Some victims don't recognize their own parents. Ugandan officials say some 3,000 children in the East African country suffer from the affliction. Some caregivers even tie nodding syndrome children up to trees so that they don't have to monitor them every minute of the day. Beginning Monday, Uganda hosts a four-day international conference on nodding syndrome that health officials believe will lead to a clearer understanding of the mysterious disease. © 2012 NBCNews.com

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 3: Neurophysiology: The Generation, Transmission, and Integration of Neural Signals
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 3: Neurophysiology: The Generation, Transmission, and Integration of Neural Signals
Link ID: 17102 - Posted: 07.30.2012

By Laura Sanders A baby’s brain is a thirsty sponge, slurping up words, figuring out faces and learning which foods are good and bad to eat. Information about the world flooding into a young brain begins to carve out traces, like rushing water over soft limestone. As the outside world sculpts the growing brain, important connections between nerve cells become strong rivers, while smaller unused tributaries quietly disappear. In time, these brain connections crystallize, forming indelible patterns etched into marble. Impressionable brain systems that allowed a child to easily learn a language, for instance, go away, abandoned for the speed and strength that come with rigidity. In a fully set brain, signals fly around effortlessly, making common­place tasks short work. A master of efficiency, the adult brain loses the exuberance of childhood. But the adult brain need not remain in this petrified state. In a feat of neural alchemy, the brain can morph from marble back to limestone. The potential for this metamorphosis has galvanized scientists, who now talk about a mind with the power to remake itself. In the last few years, researchers have found ways to soften the stone, recapturing some of the lost magic of a young brain. “There’s been a very, very significant change,” says Richard Davidson of the University of Wisconsin–Madison. “I don’t think the import of that basic fact has fully expressed itself.” © Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2012

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 17101 - Posted: 07.28.2012

By Jason G. Goldman The baby, assailed by eyes, ears, nose, skin, and entrails at once, feels it all as one great blooming, buzzing confusion; and to the very end of life, our location of all things in one space is due to the fact that the original extents or bignesses of all the sensations which came to our notice at once, coalesced together into one and the same space. There is no other reason than this why “the hand I touch and see coincides spatially with the hand I immediately feel.” This passage, so often quoted in introductory psychology textbooks, was written by William James in his 1890 volume Principles of Psychology, and it encapsulates the dominant viewpoint of developmental psychology for most of the history of the field. James wasn’t the first one to articulate the idea that babies are born knowing essentially nothing of the world, of course. In 1689, John Locke wrote, in An Essay Concerning Human Understanding: Let us suppose the mind to be, as we say, white paper [tabula rasa] void of all characters, without any ideas. How comes it to be furnished? Whence comes it by that vast store which the busy and boundless fancy of man has painted on it with an almost endless variety? Whence has it all the materials of reason and knowledge? To this, I answer, in one word, from experience. John Locke (1632-1704) The argument proposed by philosophers like Locke and theorists like James is that babies are born as “blank slates,” ready to be inscribed upon – by experience, by learning, by culture. Infants, they argue, are equipped with basic sensory mechanisms, like vision and touch, and a powerful statistical brain that is highly skilled at detecting and learning associations between those sensory inputs. Throughout development, or so the argument goes, children learn more and more associations until their minds become more like adult minds. © 2012 Scientific American

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 17099 - Posted: 07.28.2012

By Ruth Williams If a child you know refuses to share his toys, chances are he knows he is doing wrong but cannot help it. New research published in March in Neuron reveals that underdevelopment of an impulse control center in the brain is, at least in part, the reason children who fully understand the concept of fairness fail to act accordingly. As babies, we are inherently selfish, but as we grow, we become better at social strategy—that is, satisfying our own needs while behaving in a manner acceptable to others. Nikolaus Steinbeis of the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig, Germany, wondered how this skill develops. Steinbeis and his team examined kids aged six to 14 performing two similar decision-making tasks that involved sharing poker chips with an anonymous recipient (the chips were redeemable for prizes). In task one, the size of a child's offering carried no consequences, but in the second task, the anonymous youngster could reject the offer, if he or she considered it unfair, and both children would get nothing. Task two thus required social strategy; task one did not. In task one, older and younger children behaved similarly. But in task two, younger children both made worse offers and were more willing to accept bad offers even though they understood that these offers were unfair. Imaging the kids' brains while they performed the tasks revealed less activity in the younger kids' impulse-control regions in their prefrontal cortex, the seat of decision making and self-control in the brain. In addition, independent of age, less activity in this region paralleled less social strategy. © 2012 Scientific American,

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 19: Language and Hemispheric Asymmetry
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 15: Language and Our Divided Brain
Link ID: 17014 - Posted: 07.09.2012

Jon Bardin Growing up in the suburbs of New York City, Takao Hensch learned German from his father, Japanese from his mother and English from the community around him. “I was always wondering,” he says, “what is it that makes it so easy to learn languages when you're young, and so hard once you begin to get older?” Today, as a neuroscientist at Boston Children's Hospital in Massachusetts, Hensch is at the forefront of efforts to answer that question in full molecular detail. Language acquisition is just one of many processes that go through a 'sensitive' or 'critical' period — an interval during development when the neural circuits responsible for that process can be sculpted, and radically changed, by experience (see 'Open and shut'). During critical periods, children can make rapid progress at discerning facial features that look like their own, recognizing spoken language and locating objects in space. But within a few months or years, each window of opportunity slams shut, and learning anything new in that realm becomes difficult, if not impossible. Or maybe not. What Hensch and others in the small, but rapidly advancing, field of critical-period research are finding is that those windows can be prised back open. “For the first time, we are beginning to understand the biology that underlies critical periods,” says Hensch. And that understanding is suggesting ways to intervene in various neural disorders, including intractable conditions such as adult amblyopia, in which information from one eye is not correctly processed by the brain, and possibly even autism. The work could even lead to 'plasticity pills' that enhance learning or help to wipe out traumatic memories. © 2012 Nature Publishing Group,

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 17: Learning and Memory
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 17002 - Posted: 07.05.2012

By NICHOLAS BAKALAR Premature birth may increase the risk for serious mental illness in adolescence and young adulthood, a recent study reports. Researchers reviewed birth and hospital admissions records of more than 1.3 million Swedes born from 1973 to 1985. They found that compared with those born at term, young adults born very premature — at less than 32 weeks’ gestation — were more than twice as likely to be hospitalized for schizophrenia or delusional disorders, almost three times as likely for major depression, and more than seven times as likely for bipolar illness. The lead author, Chiara Nosarti, a senior lecturer in neuroimaging at Kings College London, emphasized that while the increase in relative risk is substantial, the absolute increase in numbers of people with the illnesses is not. “Despite these findings,” she said, “the majority of people born preterm have no psychiatric problems, and the number of people hospitalized with psychiatric disease is very low.” Still, she added, “routine screening may help to detect early signs of illness.” The risk also increased for people born late preterm, or 32 to 36 weeks’ gestation, but not as sharply. They were 60 percent more likely to be admitted for schizophrenia or delusional disorders, 34 percent more likely for depressive disorder, and about twice as likely to be hospitalized for bipolar illness. © 2012 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 16: Psychopathology: Biological Basis of Behavior Disorders
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 12: Psychopathology: Biological Basis of Behavioral Disorders
Link ID: 16998 - Posted: 07.03.2012

by Carrie Arnold In the world of big brains, humans have very few competitors. Dolphins come closest, with a brain to body weight ratio just below ours and just above chimpanzees. Now, a new analysis of these sharp swimmers reveals for the first time some of the genetic changes that led dolphins to evolve such large noggins. "Dolphins evolved from relatively small-brained animals like cows and hippos into this large-brained, highly specialized aquatic organism," said Caro-Beth Stewart, an evolutionary biologist at the State University of New York, Albany, who was not involved in the research. "This is one of the first comprehensive studies to look at rates of molecular evolution in dolphins." Nearly 50 million years ago, the ancestor of all cetaceans—a group that includes dolphins and whales—began its transition from land lubber to aquatic all-star. To do so, it had to evolve several adaptations: it lost limbs, it developed fins, and it gained the ability to hold its breath for long periods of time. Its brain also grew about three times bigger. To get a sense of how these large brains evolved, Michael McGowen, an evolutionary biologist at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, and his colleagues compared the dolphin's genome with two of its closest land-loving, small-brained relatives, the cow and the horse, as well as the dog. Out of the roughly 10,000 protein-coding genes the researchers examined in the bottlenose dolphin genome, they identified 228 mutations that had swept through the population. © 2010 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 6: Evolution of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 16978 - Posted: 06.27.2012

By John de Dios Derek, left, and Zachary Francis spends most of their together. However, this fall the twins will be attending separate universities Ğ the first time for them to be separated for an extended period of time. Derek, left, and Zachary Francis spends most of their together. However, this fall the twins will be attending separate universities - the first time for them to be separated for an extended period of time. Twins Derek and Zachary Francis sit across from each other in Caffe Luce, a popular coffee shop near the University of Arizona campus. Their faces, still showing signs of youthful hormones, are nearly identical. Their hairstyles, their fashion styles and even their mannerisms are almost mirror images. Derek, the older brother, has a wider jaw and short hair. A red string adorns his left wrist as he writes left-handed. Zachary, with his short hair coifed similar to his brother’s and a small birthmark behind his neck, is more reserved, listening to headphones while he scrolls through his computer with his right hand. The brothers have spent 99 percent of their 19 years of life at each other’s side. They also share an even rarer bond than your typical identical twin: The Francis twins are also mirror-image twins. © 2012 Scientific American

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 16952 - Posted: 06.23.2012

By Saswato R. Das One of the items high on the big science project to-do list is to devise a wiring diagram for the human brain. Its 100 billion neurons and the hundreds of trillions of connections among these cells consign this goal and the specifics of achieving it to the long-term bin. A first step, though, is a complete diagram of the mouse brain. Scientists at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) in Long Island, N.Y., have started making public detailed images of mouse brain circuitry, releasing on June 1 the first installment of about 500 terabytes. The goal of the effort, called the Mouse Brain Architecture Project (MBA), is an entire rodent brain wiring plan that would represent the first such mapping of the circuits of a vertebrate brain. "Current knowledge of brain circuitry is incomplete," says Jonathan Pollock, chief of genetics and molecular neurobiology research at the National Institute on Drug Abuse. "The lack of knowledge about neural circuitry has led to recognition by the scientific community of the need map the brain at the macro-, meso- and microscopic scale." The MBA complements other efforts, such as the National Institutes of Health's Human Connectome Project and the ALLEN Brain Connectivity Atlas. Pollock says that because the mouse serves as a general model for mammal genetics, the knowledge gleaned could help in the study of diseases such as Alzheimer's, autism, schizophrenia, depression and addiction. In recent years researchers focusing on mammalian brains have placed much attention on individual synapses, connection points between neurons, using electron microscopy. This approach is too complex and currently impractical for application to the whole mouse brain © 2012 Scientific American,

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 16948 - Posted: 06.21.2012

Lauren Gravitz In an advance that could transform our understanding of the complex cellular dynamics underlying development of animals, researchers have developed a method to track individual cells in a developing fly embryo in real time. Two papers published on the Nature Methods website today describe similar versions of the microscopic technique1, 2. Understanding how an embryo develops from two parental germ cells into an organism with an organized, communicating and interactive group of systems is a difficult task. To date, most studies have only been able to track pieces of that development in animals such as the zebrafish Danio rerio or the fruitfly Drosophila melanogaster. A more comprehensive understanding of the whole process and what drives it could inform research on diseases such as cancer, and help in the development of regenerative stem-cell therapies. Current light-sheet microscopy techniques involve illuminating one side of the sample. Either one side of a developing organism is imaged continuously, or two sides are viewed alternately, with the resultant data reconstructed to form a three-dimensional view. However, viewing from one side at a time means that the cells cannot be tracked as they migrate from top to bottom, and rotating the sample to view both sides takes so much time that when the next image is taken the cells have changed, so that they no longer line up. Simultaneous multi-view imaging solves this problem by taking images from opposing directions at the same time and piecing data together in real time. This required massive computing power. © 2012 Nature Publishing Group

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 16870 - Posted: 06.05.2012

By James Gallagher Health and science reporter, BBC News Being born prematurely is linked to an increased risk of a range of mental health problems much later in life, according to researchers. Bipolar disorder, depression and psychosis were all more likely, the study in The Archives of General Psychiatry suggested. The overall risk remained very low, but was higher in premature babies. Experts cautioned there have since been significant advances in caring for premature babies. Full-term pregnancies last for around 40 weeks, but one in 13 babies are born prematurely, before 36 weeks. Researchers at the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College London and the Karolinska Institute in Sweden analysed data from 1.3m people born in Sweden between 1973 and 1985. They found 10,523 people were admitted to hospital with a psychiatric disorders, 580 of those had been born prematurely. The academics showed full-term children had a two in 1,000 chance of being admitted. The risk was four in 1,000 for premature babies born before 36 weeks and six in 1,000 for those born before 32 weeks. Very premature babies were more than seven times more like to have bipolar disorder and nearly three times as likely to have depression. One of the researchers, Dr Chiara Nosarti, said the real figures may be higher as milder conditions would not have needed a hospital visit. BBC © 2012

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 16: Psychopathology: Biological Basis of Behavior Disorders
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 12: Psychopathology: Biological Basis of Behavioral Disorders
Link ID: 16863 - Posted: 06.02.2012

A treatment to reduce the body temperatures of infants who experience oxygen deficiency at birth has benefits into early childhood, according to a follow-up study by a National Institutes of Health research network. Children who received the hypothermia treatment as infants were more likely to have survived to ages 6 and 7, when they were evaluated again, than were children who received routine care, the study found. They were no more likely than the routine care group to experience a physical or cognitive impairment, it said. The report appears in the New England Journal of Medicine. “The findings show that the use of this cooling technique after birth increases the chances of survival, without increasing the risk of long-term disability,” said senior author Rosemary D. Higgins, M.D. The study was conducted by Seetha Shankaran, M.D., of Wayne State University in Detroit, Dr. Higgins, and 25 other researchers in the NICHD Neonatal Research Network. Infants born at term may fail to get enough oxygen, from blood loss or other birth complications. Oxygen deprivation during the birth process is called hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy, or HIE. In severe cases of HIE, death rates can reach 50 percent. Survivors often sustain brain damage, which can result in cerebral palsy, cognitive impairment, or hearing and vision loss. Even if they do not experience detectable brain damage, children who experience HIE at birth are at higher risk for learning disabilities, language delays, and memory deficits. Severe oxygen deficiency at birth is also known as birth asphyxia.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 16862 - Posted: 06.02.2012

Researchers have shown in mice how immune cells in the brain target and remove unused connections between brain cells during normal development. This research, supported by the National Institutes of Health, sheds light on how brain activity influences brain development, and highlights the newly found importance of the immune system in how the brain is wired, as well as how the brain forms new connections throughout life in response to change. Disease-fighting cells in the brain, known as microglia, can prune the billions of tiny connections (or synapses) between neurons, the brain cells that transmit information through electric and chemical signals. This new research demonstrates that microglia respond to neuronal activity to select synapses to prune, and shows how this pruning relies on an immune response pathway — the complement system — to eliminate synapses in the way that bacterial cells or other pathogenic debris are eliminated. The study was led by Beth Stevens, Ph.D., assistant professor of neurology at Boston Children's Hospital and Harvard Medical School. The brain is created with many more synapses than it retains into adulthood. As the brain develops, it goes through dynamic changes to refine its circuitry, trimming away the synaptic connections that do not have a lot of activity, and preserving the stronger, more active synapses. This period, known as synaptic pruning, is a key part of normal brain development. Scientists do not have a clear understanding of how these synapses are selected, targeted and then pruned. However, precise elimination of unused synapses and strengthening those that are most needed is essential for normal brain function. Many childhood disorders, such as amblyopia (a loss of vision in one eye that can occur when the eyes are misaligned), various forms of mental retardation, epilepsy and autism are thought to be due to abnormal brain development.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 16837 - Posted: 05.24.2012

By David Biello Banned for indoor use since 2001, the effects of the common insecticide known as chlorpyrifos can still be found in the brains of young children now approaching puberty. A new study used magnetic imaging to reveal that those children exposed to chlorpyrifos in the womb had persistent changes in their brains throughout childhood. The brains of 20 children exposed to higher levels of chlorpyrifos in their mother’s blood (as measured by serum from the umbilical cord) “looked different” compared to those exposed to lower levels of the chemical, says epidemiologist Virginia Rauh of the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, who led the research published online by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on April 30. “During brain development some type of disturbance took place.” The 6 young boys and 14 little girls, whose mothers were exposed to chlorpyrifos when it was used indoors to control pests prior to the ban, ranged in age from seven to nearly 10. All came from Dominican or African American families in the New York City region. Compared to 20 children from the same kinds of New York families who had relatively low levels of chlorpyrifos in umbilical cord blood, the 20 higher dose kids had protuberances in some regions of the cerebral cortex and thinning in other regions. “There were measurable volumetric changes in the cerebral cortex,” Rauh notes. Though the study did not map specific disorders associated with any of these brain changes, the regions affected are associated with functions like attention, decision-making, language, impulse control and working memory. The “structural anomalies in the brain could be a mechanism, or explain why we found cognitive deficits in children” in previous studies, Rauh notes. © 2012 Scientific American

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Link ID: 16737 - Posted: 05.02.2012

By NATALIE ANGIER CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Seated in a cheerfully cramped monitoring room at the Harvard University Laboratory for Developmental Studies, Elizabeth S. Spelke, a professor of psychology and a pre-eminent researcher of the basic ingredient list from which all human knowledge is constructed, looked on expectantly as her students prepared a boisterous 8-month-old girl with dark curly hair for the onerous task of watching cartoons. The video clips featured simple Keith Haring-type characters jumping, sliding and dancing from one group to another. The researchers’ objective, as with half a dozen similar projects under way in the lab, was to explore what infants understand about social groups and social expectations. Yet even before the recording began, the 15-pound research subject made plain the scope of her social brain. She tracked conversations, stared at newcomers and burned off adult corneas with the brilliance of her smile. Dr. Spelke, who first came to prominence by delineating how infants learn about objects, numbers, the lay of the land, shook her head in self-mocking astonishment. “Why did it take me 30 years to start studying this?” she said. “All this time I’ve been giving infants objects to hold, or spinning them around in a room to see how they navigate, when what they really wanted to do was engage with other people!” © 2012 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 16734 - Posted: 05.01.2012