How neurons find their place

Neurons in the developing central nervous system and brain congregate in layers or neighborhoods, fitting into an alignment that will dictate their function. But how do they find their proper place?

In a new study, Yale researchers used an advanced microscopy technique that allowed them to follow a single neuron in the embryo of a worm as it found its neurological home.

The research team, led by Titas Sengupta, working in the lab of Daniel Colón-Ramos, the Dorys McConnell Duberg Professor of Neuroscience and Cell Biology, found that adhesion molecules grab onto neurons which then are essentially pulled into a specific layer or neighborhood and are “zippered” into place. The findings were published in the journal eLife.

In a video, Colón-Ramos describes what the technology revealed.

“What we’re able to do with this microscope is track those events as they’re actually occurring and ascribe specific genetic functions to these molecules that we’re identifying in that sequence of events,” he said.

These insights, he said, will help scientists determine the molecular roots of many early developmental diseases.

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