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Salk scientists discover previously unknown requirement for brain development
Date:6/21/2013

her as they should.

"Our new understanding is that genes only create a rough lay-out of cortical areas," explains O'Leary. "There must be thalamic input to develop the fine differentiation necessary for proper sensory processing."

Essentially, if the brain were a house, genes would determine which areas were bedrooms. Thalamic input provides the details, distinguishing what will be the master bedroom, a child's bedroom, a guest bedroom and so on. "The size and location of areas within the overall cortex does not change, but without thalamic input from the LGN, the critical differentiation process that creates primary and higher order visual areas does not happen," says O'Leary.

Given that most sensory modalities---- sight, hearing, touch---- route through thalamus to cortex, this experiment may suggest why, when someone lacks a sensory modality from birth, that individual has a harder time processing restored sensory input than someone who lost the sense later in life. But in addition, as O'Leary says, "More subtle changes in thalamic input in humans would also likely result in changes to the neo-cortex that could well have a substantial impact on the ability to process vision, or other senses, and lead to abnormal behavior."

O'Leary says his lab plans to continue to explore the links between how cortical areas in the brain are established and various developmental disorders, such as autism.


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Contact: Kat Kearney
kkearney@salk.edu
619-296-8455
Salk Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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