Making your brain talk

Two weeks ago, European scientists published an article in Nature Neuroscience suggesting that failure of microglia to trim connections between neurons results in weak brain connectivity.

Microglia are cells located in the brain that are important during development.  These cells are required to “prune,” or get rid of, excess connections among neurons as the brain matures.  Trimming neurons allows for the leftovers to strengthen, and communicate with each other much more effectively.

The researchers at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory show that without microglia in the developmental stages, there is an issue with the brain wiring.  This results in weak brain connectivity, decreased social interactions, and other typical behaviors of autism.

Scientists genetically engineered a mouse model with a brain that had less microglia during development.  Using fMRI, the brain could be visualized to show functional connections.  These mice displayed weaker connections as compared to a control group.  Their behavior was examined, and these mice also displayed behaviors commonly associated with autism spectrum disorders – behaviors include increased time alone as well as increased time spent grooming.

To read the article:

Zhan, Yang, et al. “Deficient neuron-microglia signaling results in impaired functional brain connectivity and social behavior.” Nature neuroscience (2014).


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