Larry W. Swanson

in Brain Architecture

Second edition

Published on behalf of Oxford University Press

Published in print August 2011 | ISBN: 9780195378580
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199965120 | DOI:

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  • Development of the Nervous System


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The main pattern, the basic wiring diagram, of the nervous system is genetically determined and is laid down during embryonic development. However, it is critically important to remember that the nervous system is an organ system of the body and as such is a living, changing, dynamic network—quite different from the hardware that controls your computer. Thus, the microconnections established by individual neurons are constantly modified by experience and internal physiological conditions. This chapter reviews four examples of nervous system modifiability. The first example concerns biological mechanisms underlying learning and memory, which are mediated at least partly by changes in the strength of specific synapses in specific parts of relevant neural networks. The second example deals with the effects of stress hormones on gene expression patterns in the nervous system that may result in the biochemical switching of information flow. The third deals with changes in synaptic dynamics during circadian and reproductive cycles, and the fourth introduces the vast topic of nervous system responses to disease and other forms of damage, including regrowth of connections.

Chapter.  4380 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Development of the Nervous System

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