Tech UPTechnologyThey discover an unknown region of the brain

They discover an unknown region of the brain

A neuroscientist has just found a previously unknown area of the brain. The newly identified brain region could give a boost to scientists’ efforts to cure neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s disease or the motor neuron.

Due to technological advancements in recent years, medical science has made huge strides, many of them with great implications for medical and neuroscientific research.

For example, the scientists devised an innovative method that allowed them to record a million neurons at once, as well as decipher neural activity in real time. The techniques gave the researchers access to meaningful data in milliseconds.

Now, a new discovery has revealed a part of the human brain that had previously gone unnoticed. Professor George Paxinos, an anatomist at Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA), an independent medical research institute in Sydney, Australia, had suspected the existence of a new brain area for 30 years.

The expert, who specializes in brain mapping, has finally been able to confirm his suspicions, with the help of innovative brain staining and imaging techniques. Paxinos has christened this new brain region the Detestiform Nucleus, and has detailed its discovery in the book Human Brainstem: Cytoarchitecture, Chemoarchitecture, Myeloarchitecture.

What is this brain region in charge of?

The endorestiform nucleus is located at the bottom of the lower cerebellar peduncle, which connects the cerebellum with the underlying brainstem. The inferior cerebellar peduncle is “responsible” for the integration of spatial and motor information to regulate our fine motor skills.

Fine motor skills include movements of the hands and fingers, such as pinching or grasping, as well as subtle movements that allow us to control our posture and balance. When we button our shirts or type on a keyboard, for example, we are using fine motor skills.

“I can only guess at its function, but given the part of the brain where it has been found, it could be involved in fine motor control,” Paxinos explains. “ The region is intriguing because it appears to be absent in the rhesus monkey and other animals we have studied . This region could be what makes humans unique in addition to our brain size.”

Implications of the discovery

Neurosurgeons regularly use “brain atlases” , as having a detailed understanding of the architecture and neural connectivity of the human brain is vital to finding better treatments for neurological conditions.

In this particular case, discovering an area of the brain that regulates fine motor control can have significant implications for neurodegenerative conditions that affect a person’s motor skills, such as Parkinson’s disease and motor neuron disease.

Peter Schofield, professor at the University of New South Wales in Sydney and executive director of the NeuRA research center, places the findings in the broader context:

“Paxinos atlases showing detailed morphology and connections of the human brain and spinal cord provide a critical framework for researchers to test hypotheses of synaptic function in brain disease treatments .”

Reference: Human Brainstem 1st Edition

Cytoarchitecture, Chemoarchitecture, Myeloarchitecture Authors: George Paxinos Teri Furlong Charles Watson / Hardcover ISBN: 9780128141847

Imprint: Academic Press Published Date: 1st March 2019 Page Count: 307

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