This news seems to provide vital insights about the workings of the brain. Researchers from Queensland Brain Institute have apparently unearthed an imperative pointer into how the brain is wired. This may ultimately steer investigation in nervous system disorders like Parkinson’s disease and cognitive disorders including autism.
Apparently, it has been known for quite some time that developing nerve fibres, also called axons, ought to make connections in the brain for it to work correctly.
“During the brain’s development, billions of nerve cells send out nerve fibres which have to find the appropriate targets to form the right connections. There’s increasing evidence that defects in the genes coding for molecules that control neural wiring are correlated to a number of cognitive disorders, such as autism and Parkinson’s disease,” commented, lead researcher Professor Geoffrey Goodhill.
Professor Goodhill mentioned that directing decisions for nerve fibres are apparently made by structures at the tips of axons, called growth cones, which may identify signals like gradients of guidance cues in their environment. Supposedly, there have been queries about how the growth cones perform if the gradients are shallow, which seems to make the guidance signals frail.
The researcher stated, “Previously it wasn’t clear what was happening when the gradient was very shallow because often the axons didn’t seem to turn. It wasn’t clear what they were doing. We have now shown that they are in fact detecting the gradient, it’s just they are not responding to that by turning – they are responding by changing their speed of growth.”
Professor Goodhill added, “Wiring defects seem to underlie a lot of cognitive disorders and therefore we need to understand what the basic rules are. We need to know how these nerve fibres find their way to the right locations, and this new discovery is helping us do to that.”
He explained the finding of this alternative type of growth cone navigating as at the essential science level, but mentioned that it may ultimately result in a superior comprehension of nervous system development, and cognitive disorders like autism.
The findings were published in the leading multidisciplinary journal PNAS.