Key Mechanism in Development of Nerve Cells Found

HELSINKI –  Researchers at the University of Helsinki have found a new mechanism that adjusts the functional development of nerve cell contacts in the brains of newborns.

Led by Dr. Sari Lauri have been studying how a neural network capable of processing information effectively is created out of loosely bound nerve cells in a newborn’s brain.

The new study sheds light on a development path that results in some of the large number of early synapses becoming stronger.

The researchers found out that the BDNF growth factor of nerve cells triggers a functional chain, which promotes the release of the neurotransmitter glutamate.

BDNF enables the release of glutamate by prohibiting the function of kainate receptors, which slow down the development of the preforms of the synapses.

The activity of the kainate receptors restricts the release of glutamate and the development of synapses into functional nerve cell contacts.

However, it is known that the brain of a newborn itself seems to organise its own development.

The electrical activity of the waking brain triggers the series of events controlled by the BDNF protein, which makes kainate receptor activity to disappear in some synapses.

The development is based on the considerable plasticity of the developing neural network- it can reshape its structure and function to a large extent.

Lauri said that the new research results help understand how central nervous system diseases originating in early development are established.

The finding also provides researchers with the opportunity to obtain information about the different aspects of endogenous activity of the brain.

At the same time, it could be possible to develop new kinds of pharmaceuticals for the treatment of childhood epilepsy, for example.

The results have been published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

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