Neuroanatomy Discovery Challenges Accepted Teachings

April 21, 2014 8:02 PM

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Neuroanatomy Discovery Challenges Accepted Teachings

In days gone by, Neuroanatomy textbooks had drawings of nerve cells showing myelin, an insulating material, wrapped around the cell’s axonal process all the way along its length and spaced at regular intervals. Now, using two massive databases containing electron microscopy data, scientists have been able to reconstruct high-resolution maps of the pattern of myelination on the axons of neurons in the mouse neo-cortex. Their discovery challenges the accepted teachings of traditional neuroanatomy. The research reported on today was conducted at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI) and Harvard’s Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology. The research team is headed by Dr. Paola Arlotta of HSCI, and Dr. Jeff Lichtman. Their work is published in the latest issue of Science magazine – one of the most prestigious of the peer-reviewed journals.

Myelin is tremendously important for neural transmission; loss of myelin is seen in several serious pathologies, including schizophrenia and multiple sclerosis. Myelin has been understood for years to be important for speeding the transmission of neural impulses along the axon, at rates that are fas...

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