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Jul 9, 2022

The beginnings of the thinking brain

Posted by in categories: genetics, neuroscience

Oxford researchers have identified the very first neurons in the human cerebral cortex, the part of the brain that sets us apart from all other animals.

Dr Irina Bystron and colleagues from the Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics at the University of Oxford, together with Professor Pasko Rakic, a leading neuroscientist at Yale University, describe for the first time in Nature Neuroscience the very earliest nerve cells in the part of the developing human brain that becomes the cerebral cortex.

The cerebral cortex is largely responsible for human cognition, playing an essential role in perception, memory, thought, language, mental ability, intellect and consciousness. It is also responsible for our voluntary actions. As adults our cerebral cortex accounts for 40 per cent of the brain’s weight and is composed of about 20 billion neurons. The new findings show that its first neurons are in place much earlier than previously thought – approximately 31 days after fertilization, when the entire embryo is only about 4 mm long and shaped a bit like a comma, before the development of arms, legs or eyes.

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