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Plasticity

Plasticity itself is not unique to humans, but the degree to which our brains are able to adapt is the defining attribute of our species.

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Sarah-Jayne Blakemore: The Mysterious Workings of the Adolescent Brain

Why do teenagers seem so much more impulsive and so much less self-aware than grown-ups? Hear neuroscientist Sarah-Jayne Blakemore explain in this TED talk.

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Epigenetics

Is it "nature" or "nurture" that influences behavior and health outcomes?

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Introduction

Before birth, the human brain spends many busy months producing nerve cells and the connections between them. Scientists are increasingly interested in the many factors and processes influencing brain development. By understanding the steps to build a healthy brain, researchers can gain insight into what goes wrong in disorders of brain development and clues about how to repair the brain following injury. Advanced technology is helping identify key molecules involved in making nerve cells; guiding them to specific locations; directing where they lay down connections; and assigning the chemicals the cells will use to communicate. This information could one day guide the development of new therapies for people with degenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, or brain damage from stroke or injury. This research could also inform what scientists understand about autism spectrum disorders and schizophrenia, which are thought to be caused by disruptions in brain development.

Discoveries

Image of the Week: Powering New Neurons

Source: Society for Neuroscience
Changes to cellular batteries known as mitochondria may be important for the development of new brain cells.

Induction: The Making of a Neuron

Source: Society for Neuroscience
Neuron formation begins in the earliest stages of human development. Signaling molecules “turn on” certain genes and “turn off” others, beginning nerve cell induction.

Critical Periods in Early Life

Source: Society for Neuroscience
Genes and the environment converge powerfully during early sensitive windows of brain development to form the neural circuits underlying behavior. Although most neuronal cell death occurs in the embryo, the paring down of connections occurs in large part during critical periods in early postnatal life.

Sarah-Jayne Blakemore: The Mysterious Workings of the Adolescent Brain

Source: TED
Why do teenagers seem so much more impulsive and so much less self-aware than grown-ups? Hear neuroscientist Sarah-Jayne Blakemore explain in this TED talk.

Brain Development in the News

Unique Floating Lab Showcases 'Aliens of the Sea'

Source: ABC
Date: 27 April 2014
Researchers are decoding the genomic blueprints of comb jellies to learn which genes switch on and off as the animals perform such tasks as regeneration.

Scientists Create an Unprecedented Map of the Developing Human Brain

Source: WIRED
Date: 2 April 2014
Scientists released a high-resolution map of the fetal human brain that contains information about gene activity during cerebral cortex development.

What Makes Teens Terrible: Scientists Find Brain 'Disconnect' Causes Emotional Outbursts and Bad Behaviour

Source: Daily Mail
Date: 1 April 2014
During adolescence, the limbic system connects and communicates with the rest of the brain differently than it does during adulthood, scientists found.