Researchers at Boston Children's Hospital have found out the reason why people who have been neglected or socially isolated during childhood suffer from cognitive and social impairments as adults.
Researchers led by Gabriel Corfas and Manabu Makinodan conducted the study on a group of mice that were kept in social isolation for two weeks.
The researchers found that when the social isolation occurred during the first three weeks after their birth, also known as the critical period, a group of glial cells known as oligodendrocytes did not mature in the prefrontal cortex region of the brain which is associated with cognitive and social functions. The study has been published in the journal Science.
Stating that the maturity of glial cells was important for establishing normal neuronal circuits, Corfas said, "In general, the thinking has been that experience shapes the brain by influencing neurons. We are showing that glial cells are also influenced by experience, and that this is an essential step in establishing normal, mature neuronal circuits. Our findings provide a cellular and molecular context to understand the consequences of social isolation."