Neuroscience

Timing counts for whisker development

+ See all authors and affiliations

Science  26 Sep 2014:
Vol. 345, Issue 6204, pp. 1575
DOI: 10.1126/science.345.6204.1575-a
PHOTO: © 2/LIFE ON WHITE/OCEAN/CORBIS

Whiskers help animals to sense the world around them. Each whisker precisely connects to a specific area of the brain. These connections form during early brain development, and protein receptors that bind to the neurotransmitter glutamate (specifically, NMDA-type glutamate receptors) play a key role in their refinement. Fetal and neonatal brains express subunits of the NMDA receptor that regulate its function, called GluN2B and GluN2D. Yamasaki et al. discovered that GluN2B and GluN2D play opposing roles as whisker-brain connections develop and mature in mice. Connections formed nearly a day early when mice lacked GluN2D expression. In contrast, reduced expression of the GluN2B subunit delayed the development of the connections by a day.

J. Neurosci. 34, 11534 (2014).

Navigate This Article