Some Aspects of the Developing Brain and Nervous System

  • Lawrence D. Longo
Part of the Perspectives in Physiology book series (PHYSIOL, volume 1)


As knowledge of human development increases, the sobering reality is becoming evident that the foundations for much of our life as adults, including our state of mind and life, are established in our mother’s womb prior to birth. Growth and development of the brain, the most complex organ not only in the body, but probably in the universe, is unique in many respects. As with other cells, those of the nervous system have identical genomic DNA sequences (the template of our heredity and instruction sets for gene expression); however, they develop into strikingly different and unique phenotypes. Neurons, the cells responsible for signaling, conducting, and communication, convert a variety of stimuli into control of short- and long-term memory, consciousness, and behavior. By late-gestation in the developing fetus, following a “brain growth spurt” neuron number is established with only modest postnatal neurogenesis other than in the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus and the periventricular and subventricular zones (PVZ and SVZ). Supporting astrocytes and glial cells follow a similar course, with a delay of several weeks. Maturation of oligodendrocytes with formation of myelin follows a much later time course. In view of the complexity of orchestrated neurogenesis with axon and dendrite formation during this period of rapid growth, specialized cell type differentiation with their neurotransmitters, migration, the connectivity of literally billions of synapses, and selective cell death, the brain is exquisitely sensitive to factors that may alter and interfere with its normal pattern of growth and development (Fig. 12.1).


Cerebral Blood Flow Down Syndrome Dentate Gyrus Subventricular Zone Growth Spurt 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© American Physiological Society 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lawrence D. Longo
    • 1
  1. 1.Center for Perinatal BiologyLoma Linda University School of MedicineLoma LindaUSA

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