AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 29, Number 2, 2020

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Brain Discovery Suggests Source of Lifelong Behavioral Issues

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Improper removal of faulty brain cells during neurodevelopment may cause lifelong behavioral issues, new research from the University of Virginia School of Medicine suggests. The finding also could have important implications for a wide range of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

UVA neuroscientists have discovered that an unexpected form of cellular cleanup takes place in developing brains. If this process goes wrong – happening too little or too much – it can cause permanent changes in the brain’s wiring. In lab mice, this results in anxiety-like behavior, and it may play a role in neurological conditions such as autism in humans.

“You don’t want [brain] cells to have genomic compromises. You don’t want damaged DNA. So this would be a normal mechanism to expel those cells from being incorporated into the central nervous system,” explained researcher Catherine R. Lammert. “When the damage isn’t recognized, the cells that have DNA damage live on in the CNS [central nervous system] and can be seen by accumulation of DNA damage in the brain.”

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