Cerebral sensory development: genetic programming versus environmental stimuli
The part of the brain associated with the sense of touch – the somatosensory cerebral cortex – has attracted numerous studies aimed at determining the influence of extrinsic environmental and intrinsic genetic factors in sensory development. Understanding the role of these factors in sensory map formation and development may provide insights into the mechanisms behind other circuits in the central nervous system. Now Hiroshi Kawasaki and colleagues at Kanazawa University, The University of Tokyo, Tokyo Institute of Technology and Kumamoto University in Japan have identified how sensory map development is regulated in mice pups at birth, and the molecular signalling responsible.
Rodents have a sensory map in the primary somatosensory cerebral cortex, characterized by cell clusters called barrels filled with patches of nerve fibre. Inputs from the part of the brain that link to the rodent’s whiskers terminate at these barrels. The barrel distribution pattern is the same as the distribution of the whiskers on the snout and forms soon after birth.
The researchers induced preterm birth in mice and quantitatively compared the degree of development of whisker-related barrel pattern formation with mice born after the full term of pregnancy. At set periods after conception, barrel formation was significantly more advanced in the mice born preterm. Further experiments identified the critical effect of serotonin reductions during the days after birth.
“Interestingly, the regulatory mechanisms described here were also found to regulate eye-specific segregation in the visual system, raising the possibility that they are utilized in various brain regions,” the researchers suggest. They add that further investigation of the range of roles of serotonin and the underlying mechanisms will be interesting for future research.
Publication and Affiliation
Tomohisa Toda1,2,3,4,5, Daigo Homma6, Hirofumi Tokuoka6, Itaru Hayakawa4, Yukihiko Sugimoto7, Hiroshi Ichinose6 and Hiroshi Kawasaki1,2,3,4*
Birth regulates the initiation of sensory map formation through serotonin signaling. Developmental Cell 27 (2013) 32-46. Link
1. Department of Biophysical Genetics, Graduate School of Medical Sciences, Kanazawa University, Ishikawa 920-8640, Japan
2. Brain/Liver Interface Medicine Research Center, Kanazawa University, Ishikawa 920-8640, Japan
3. Innovative Preventive Medicine Education and Research Center, Kanazawa University, Ishikawa 920-8640, Japan
4. Department of Molecular and Systems Neurobiology, Graduate School of Medicine, The University of Tokyo, Tokyo 113-0033, Japan
5. Department of Neurology, Graduate School of Medicine, The University of Tokyo, Tokyo 113-0033, Japan
6. Department of Life Science, Graduate School of Bioscience and Biotechnology, Tokyo Institute of Technology, Yokohama 226-8501, Japan
7. Department of Pharmaceutical Biochemistry, Graduate School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Kumamoto University, Kumamoto 862-0973, Japan
*corresponding author, e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org