60-Second Mind

Fetal Neurons Found in Adult Brain

Special cells that control the wiring of a fetus' brain were thought to die off shortly after birth. But scientists have found some of these pre-natal neurons surviving, and communicating, in the adult brain.

It used to be thought that the brain has all its functions in place by age three, and that was that. But new research is revealing a brain that changes throughout our lives.
And here’s something else, scientists have recently found some long lost neurons – Neurons that were thought to have died shortly after we’re born. These fetal cells function as guides in the initial wiring of our brains. They direct growing nerve fibers, working much like the foremen on a construction site. After we are born, their job is done and they die off.
Or so scientists thought…
But in the Journal of Neuroscience, researchers Michael Friedlander and Juan Torres-Reveron write that they’ve discovered about 10 percent of these neurons in adult brains. And they say the pre-natal cells undergo plasticity, meaning they change the strength of their communication based on experience. 
Here’s the hope:  if we understand how these cells build baby brains – then we might have a new way to heal injured adult brains.  As Friedlander says, “These are not stem cells that need to be grown, they’re already there, and maybe we can re-activate their ability to build healthy connections once again.”

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