Sensory Map Development Regulated By Serotonin At Birth

Researchers in Japan have identified how sensory map development is regulated in mice pups at birth.

AsianScientist (Dec. 27, 2013) – Researchers have for a long time tried to determine the influence of environmental and genetic factors in the development of the somatosensory cerebral cortex, which is the brain structure associated with the sense of touch.

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. To do so, Hiroshi Kawasaki from Kanazawa University in Japan and colleagues studied how sensory map development is regulated in mice pups at birth.

Rodents have a sensory map in the primary somatosensory cerebral cortex, characterized by cell clusters called barrels filled with patches of nerve fiber. 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 ruled out the role of maternal hormones prior to birth and 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 authors add that further investigation of the range of roles of serotonin and the underlying mechanisms will be interesting for future research.

The article can be found at: Toda T et al. (2013) Birth Regulates the Initiation of Sensory Map Formation through Serotonin Signaling.


Source: Kanazawa University; Photo: jepoirrier/Flickr/CC.
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