Developmental neuroscience is a field that explores how the nervous system is formed, from early embryonic stages through adulthood. Although it is known that neural progenitor cells follow predictable stages of proliferation, differentiation, migration, and maturation, the mechanisms controlling the progression through each stage are incompletely understood. Studying development is not only important for understanding how complex structures are assembled, but also for characterizing and treating developmental disorders. Since injury repair processes are similar to those that occur in development, this field is also a promising source of insight into when and how nervous system tissues regenerate.
This video provides a brief overview of the field of developmental neuroscience, including some key experiments that have advanced our understanding of the mechanisms controlling the formation of early neural tissue and the further specialization of those cells into discrete subsets of neurons. The discussion focuses on prominent questions that developmental biologists are asking and then demonstrates some of the methods that they use to investigate these questions. Finally, applications of the techniques are presented to provide insight into what it means to be a developmental neuroscientist today. The range of experiments demonstrated includes genetic manipulation of intact embryonic brains, targeted differentiation of stem cells into nervous system cells, and staining techniques that allow for the quantification of specific developmental events, like the formation of new connections between neurons.
Developmental neurobiology explores how a few early embryonic cells can transform into an intricately organized nervous system that controls an entire organism.
Scientists in this field are interested in how cells take on specific identities, migrate to defined regions, and connect to form a functional system. These processes are important for understanding how the nervous system functions as well as the diagnosis and treatment of a broad range of neurological diseases rooted in abnormal development.
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