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Studying connections between the brain's cells during development reveals how the organ matures

06 September 2021

Making Up Minds

A brief conversation is enough to show that the brains of a toddler, teenager, and adult work very differently. But their biological structure is similar, and researchers are interested in understanding the subtle changes that happen as we develop, to reveal strategies for setting development back on track when things go awry. A new study has intricately mapped the structure of a developing worm brain at eight points during development (pictured, components of the adult structure being visualised from many sliced sections), to reveal how individual connections between brain cells evolve as the animal grows. In this simple model, some areas of the brain remain stable while others such as those governing sensory and motor functions make new connections and reform, ultimately boosting information processing. Identifying more flexible regions of development may point to new strategies for overcoming genetic developmental vulnerabilities, and ultimately make sense of our own minds.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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