About Careers MedBlog Contact us
Medindia LOGIN REGISTER
Advertisement

New Technique to Track Brain Development

by Shirley Johanna on May 6, 2016 at 5:47 PM
Font : A-A+

New Technique to Track Brain Development

Nerve impulses in the brain travel along nerve fibers just like electricity going down wires. Just as wires need insulation to function well, nerve fibers rely on myelin, a fatty substance that protects them and increases the speed at which nerve impulses travel.

At birth, the human brain contains very little myelin but it increases quickly throughout childhood. Many researchers think the ability to learn quickly and process large amounts of information as children is directly related to the rapid myelination of the nerve fibers, yet scientists don't fully understand this process.

Advertisement


A recent study led by Doug Dean III of the Waisman Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and published in the journal NeuroImage combined two related but different imaging techniques to non-invasively track the rate at which nerve fibers in children's brains become wrapped in myelin.

"Having a non-invasive way to quantitatively map the thickness of myelin sheaths around nerve fibers will help us learn more about how the brain develops and when new nerve connections are made," says Dean.
Advertisement

It could also lead to new findings of diseases like multiple sclerosis and leukodystrophies, in which the myelin sheath is damaged.

Additionally, Dean says, there are several neurodevelopmental disorders with no known causes and "understanding how myelination proceeds in typically developing brains could tell us if these disorders are linked to defects in myelination."

In general, the thicker the myelin sheath, the quicker the speed of nerve impulses along that nerve fiber. To non-invasively measure, the thickness of the myelin sheaths, Dean and his colleagues enhanced and combined two existing techniques that are variations of magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI.

MRI has a wide range of medical applications and is often used to image the brain, other organs, and joints and soft tissue. MRI is also the basis of several imaging techniques.

One of the MRI-based techniques used by Dean, called DTI, provides highly detailed images of nerve fibers and other structures in the brain. But these images aren't very helpful for researchers who are trying to determine the thickness of myelin fibers.

Another MRI-based imaging technique, called mcDESPOT, can help researchers estimate how much myelin there is in specific areas of the brain but doesn't provide a clear picture of other structures that may also be present in those areas.

While each imaging technique provides valuable information, by themselves they paint only a hazy portrait of myelin thickness. By combining these two methods, Dean and his study colleagues were able to not only image nerve fibers and other structures in the brain, they could also calculate the size of these nerve fibers and the amount of myelin surrounding them.

For the study, the researchers captured brain images from several children, ranging in age from around 4 months to more than 7 years, and used the combined techniques to calculate myelin thickness. These measures closely matched what other researchers had predicted using theoretical models.

"That shows the accuracy of our imaging techniques and calculations," says Dean, though he notes that while the initial results are "very encouraging," additional studies using animal models or preserved human brains are necessary to further test their findings.

While it could be years before this technology yields new diagnostic or therapeutic approaches, Dean says the study is an important first step toward understanding a vital stage of early human development.



Source: Eurekalert
Advertisement

Advertisement
News A-Z
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
What's New on Medindia
Get Involved and Stand Up for Human Rights on Human Rights Day 2022
Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting
Macronutrients Calculator for Weight Loss
View all
Recommended Reading
News Archive
Date
Category
Advertisement
News Category

Medindia Newsletters Subscribe to our Free Newsletters!
Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.

More News on:
Parkinsons Disease Parkinsons Disease Surgical Treatment Brain Brain Facts Ataxia Nutrition and Cognitive Development in Young Children Language Areas in The Brain Ways to Improve your Intelligence Quotient (IQ) 

Most Popular on Medindia

Nutam (400mg) (Piracetam) Color Blindness Calculator Drug Interaction Checker Noscaphene (Noscapine) Find a Doctor Drug - Food Interactions Sinopril (2mg) (Lacidipine) Hearing Loss Calculator Sanatogen Blood Donation - Recipients
This site uses cookies to deliver our services.By using our site, you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Cookie Policy, Privacy Policy, and our Terms of Use  Ok, Got it. Close
×

New Technique to Track Brain Development Personalised Printable Document (PDF)

Please complete this form and we'll send you a personalised information that is requested

You may use this for your own reference or forward it to your friends.

Please use the information prudently. If you are not a medical doctor please remember to consult your healthcare provider as this information is not a substitute for professional advice.

Name *

Email Address *

Country *

Areas of Interests