FRIDAY, Jan. 7 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers have found that
brain cells need to create links early in their existence, when
they are physically close together, in order to ensure successful
brain-wide connections throughout life.
These far-reaching connections enable communication between the
right and left sides of the brain and integrate various types of
information, such as vision and sound. Previous research has shown
that changes in the number of connections are associated with
developmental brain disorders such as autism, schizophrenia and
In the new study, researchers at Newcastle University in England
looked at the connectivity patterns of nerve cells in roundworms.
They found that when two nerve cells develop close together, they
form a connection that is maintained when the cells grow apart as
the worm grows.
"You can draw parallels with childhood friendships carrying on into adulthood," Marcus Kaiser, a study author, said in a university news release. "For example, two children living close to each other could become friends through common activities like school or playing at the park. The friendship can last even if one of them moves further away, while beginning a lasting friendship with someone already far away is much more difficult."
The study was published online Jan. 6 in
PLoS Computational Biology.
"Although it's too early for this research to have direct clinical applications, it adds to our understanding of the structural changes in the brain and raises some interesting questions as to how these connections can become faulty," fellow author Sreedevi Varier said in the news release. "In further studying this mechanism, we may eventually contribute towards insights into the diagnosis and possibly the treatment of patients with epilepsy and autism."
The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
has more about