SEATTLE, WASH. January 7, 2014 Although brain growth slows as individuals age, some regions of the brain continue to develop for longer than others, creating new connections and remodeling existing circuitry. How this happens is a key question in neuroscience, with implications for brain health and neurodegenerative diseases. New research published today shows that those areas of the adult brain that consume more fuel than scientists might expect also share key characteristics with the developing brain. Two Allen Brain Atlas resources the Allen Human Brain Atlas and the BrainSpan Atlas of the Developing Human Brain were crucial to uncovering the significance of these sugar-hungry regions. The results are published this month in the journal Cell Metabolism.
"These experiments and analysis represent the first union of its kind between functional imaging data and a biological mechanism, with the Allen Brain Atlas resources helping to bridge that gap," comments Michael Hawrylycz, Ph.D., Investigator with the Allen Institute for Brain Science and co-author of the study. Data from PET scans provides structural insight into the brain, but until now, has not been able to elucidate function. "Now we can make the comparison between the functional data and the gene expression data," says Hawrylycz, "so instead of just the 'where,' we now also have the 'what' and 'how.'"
The brain needs to constantly metabolize fuel in order to keep running, most often in the form of glycolysis: the breaking down of stored sugar into useable energy. PET scans of the brain, which illuminate regions consuming sugar, show that some select areas of the brain seemed to exhibit fuel consumption above and beyond what was needed for basic functioning. In cancer biology, this same well-known phenomenon of consuming extra fuelcalled "aerobic glycolysis"is thought to provide support pathways for cell proliferation. In the brain, aerobic glycolysis is dramatically incr
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