For scientists, studying the human brain during its early stages of development hold many keys to figuring out not only our complex neurological pathways, but also preventative measures and treatments for those that lack ‘proper’ brain functions.
Researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College are claiming that they have discovered a mechanism that guides the wiring of neural circuits of a developing brain. According to their study, which was published in the journal Cell, the team claims that ‘faulty wiring’ of the brain occurs when RNA molecules responsible for directing the growth of axon don’t degrade once they have served their purpose.
Much like a street with many stop lights, a car gets directed by a single set of lights at an intersection, but if a set of lights fails to turn red when it needs to, the car will keep on going when it’s not supposed to.
By understanding the control mechanisms of brain development, scientists may be able to come up with new methods for treating and preventing bad circuits.
“Understanding the basis of brain miswiring can help scientists come up with new therapies and strategies to correct the problem,” says Dr. Samie Jaffrey, the study’s senior author and a professor at the school’s Department of Pharmacology. “The brain is quite ‘plastic’ and changeable in the very young, and if we know why circuits are miswired, it may be possible to correct those pathways, allowing the brain to build new, functional wiring.”
Some of the disorders that may arise from faulty wiring during development include epilepsy, autism, schizophrenia, mental retardation and spasticity and movement disorders, and a wide range of other brain related conditions.
The discovery of the RNA-controlled brain growth aspect has led researchers to pondering the question of how they can prevent the molecule from becoming overactive. Prior studies have shown that various proteins are involved RNA degradation, and so this information, along with the new information, may provide scientists with new strategies for analyzing and preventing various conditions in developing brains.