Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Brain formation in the very young

EU-funded research has uncovered details of brain development in new-borns in changing environments. The findings promise to have an impact on the lifelong function of the brain including dementia.
Brain formation in the very young
The YOUNG MINDS (The synaptic development of cortical circuitry in the young brain) project has looked at how the brain forms in neonatal years and how environment can influence this development. Researchers investigated the growth of the very earliest neural networks in the sensory areas of the brain.

Using high resolution optical stimulation and recording combined with molecular, genetic and electrophysiological methods, the researchers traced development to see the influence of sensory experience on normal and pathological cortical circuit development.

The team studied premature infants to determine the effects of early sensory exposure on subsequent brain development. Later in the project, they extended their expertise in synaptic and circuit function to the pathology of dementia.

Discovery of previously unknown changes in neuronal connections during the development of the sensory cortex promises to lead to an increased understanding of how the cortex forms and how sensory perception can change. In clinical collaboration, the researchers have measured and characterised the developing brains of prematurely born children.

YOUNG MINDS are now linking these findings to a rodent model they developed during the project. This initiative will direct future research towards the most important development phases in children. The aim is to identify biomarkers of brain development after premature birth using the research results of the YOUNG MINDS project.

Significantly, YOUNG MINDS research discovered that synaptic dynamics change earlier in the dementia patient than previously thought. This may lead to early therapeutic intervention for synapse dysfunction.

The YOUNG MINDS project has also trained two post graduate students who have now graduated. Post-doctoral researchers have also worked with the project and one has a position in a university and the other will continue with the group.

Related information


Brain development, dementia, YOUNG MINDS, neonatal, sensory exposure
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