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Welcome to The Visible Embryo, a comprehensive educational resource on human development from conception to birth.

The Visible Embryo provides visual references for changes in fetal development throughout pregnancy and can be navigated via fetal development or maternal changes.

The National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development awarded Phase I and Phase II Small Business Innovative Research Grants to develop The Visible Embryo. Initally designed to evaluate the internet as a teaching tool for first year medical students, The Visible Embryo is linked to over 600 educational institutions and is viewed by more than one million visitors each month.

Today, The Visible Embryo is linked to over 600 educational institutions and is viewed by more than 1 million visitors each month. The field of early embryology has grown to include the identification of the stem cell as not only critical to organogenesis in the embryo, but equally critical to organ function and repair in the adult human. The identification and understanding of genetic malfunction, inflammatory responses, and the progression in chronic disease, begins with a grounding in primary cellular and systemic functions manifested in the study of the early embryo.

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Pregnancy Timeline by SemestersFetal liver is producing blood cellsHead may position into pelvisBrain convolutions beginFull TermWhite fat begins to be madeWhite fat begins to be madeHead may position into pelvisImmune system beginningImmune system beginningPeriod of rapid brain growthBrain convolutions beginLungs begin to produce surfactantSensory brain waves begin to activateSensory brain waves begin to activateInner Ear Bones HardenBone marrow starts making blood cellsBone marrow starts making blood cellsBrown fat surrounds lymphatic systemFetal sexual organs visibleFinger and toe prints appearFinger and toe prints appearHeartbeat can be detectedHeartbeat can be detectedBasic Brain Structure in PlaceThe Appearance of SomitesFirst Detectable Brain WavesA Four Chambered HeartBeginning Cerebral HemispheresFemale Reproductive SystemEnd of Embryonic PeriodEnd of Embryonic PeriodFirst Thin Layer of Skin AppearsThird TrimesterSecond TrimesterFirst TrimesterFertilizationDevelopmental Timeline
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Home | Pregnancy Timeline | News Alerts |News Archive Aug 21, 2013

 

neuron diagram

Diagram of a single neuron.

Credit: Wikipedia.org






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How brain microcircuits integrate sense information

New research sheds light on how the brain integrates our different senses within complex circuits of nerve cells.

The work was led by professor Paolo Medini of the Umeå University, Sweden, and is published in the top-ranked journal Neuron.

One of the biggest challenges in neuroscience is to understand how the cerebral cortex processes and integrates input from different senses (such as vision, hearing and touch) to control our bodily responses.

The brain cortex is composed of morphologic and functionally different types of nerve cells, such as excitatory and inhibitory nerve cells. These cells must connect together in very precise ways to generate muscular responses. Paolo Medini and co-workers' reveal that integration of inputs from each sense occurs differently in excitatory and inhibitory cells. Differently, as well, in the superficial and deep layers of the cortex, the latter being where electrical signals are sent out to other brain structures.


“By combining advanced techniques (1) to visualize functioning brain nerve cells, with (2) new molecular techniques allowing us to change the electrical activity of different cell types—for the first time we can understand how different nerve cells communicate with each other.”

Paolo Medini, Associate Professor, Cellular and Molecular Physiology, Molecular Biology Department, Umeå University


The new knowledge is essential for designing strategies to stimulate brain repair. It is not enough to transplant nerve cells into lesion sites, the biggest challenge is to re-create or re-activate the exact nerve cell circuits.

Medini is now leading a new Brain Circuits Lab with state of state-of-the-art tools, such as two-photon microscopes, to investigate circuit function and repair within the brain cortex.

“By combining cell physiology knowledge in the intact brain with molecular biology expertise, we plan to pave the way for more innovative research,” says Dr. Medini.

Research Highlights
Multisensory integration is larger for spike responses compared to synaptic responses
Scarce integration in parvalbumin interneurons boosts integration in pyramids
Precise spatial architecture of the distribution of uni- and multisensory neurons
Multisensory integration is scarcer in the output, deep pyramids of the cortex

Summary
Multisensory integration (MI) is crucial for sensory processing, but it is unclear how MI is organized in cortical microcircuits. Whole-cell recordings in a mouse visuotactile area located between primary visual and somatosensory cortices revealed that spike responses were less bimodal than synaptic responses but displayed larger multisensory enhancement. MI was layer and cell type specific, with multisensory enhancement being rare in the major class of inhibitory interneurons and in the output infragranular layers. Optogenetic manipulation of parvalbumin-positive interneuron activity revealed that the scarce MI of interneurons enables MI in neighboring pyramids. Finally, single-cell resolution calcium imaging revealed a gradual merging of modalities: unisensory neurons had higher densities toward the borders of the primary cortices, but were located in unimodal clusters in the middle of the cortical area. These findings reveal the role of different neuronal subcircuits in the synaptic process of MI in the rodent parietal cortex.

Original publication:
Olcese U, Iurilli G, Medini P. “Cellular and synaptic architecture of multisensory integration in the mouse neocortex”. Neuron. 2013 Aug 7;79(3): 579-593
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0896627313005266

Paolo Medini has a medical background and worked in Germany at the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research of Heidelberg. He has also been team leader at the Italian Institute of Technology in Genova, Italy. He recently started as an Associate Professor in Cellular and Molecular Physiology at the Molecular Biology Department of Umeå University, Sweden.This work is funded through an investment made possible by a generous contribution from the Kempe Foundation and through the combined efforts of Umeå University.

Original press release: http://www.wistar.org/news-and-media/press-releases/wistar-scientists-decipher-structure-nata-enzyme-complex-modifies-most