Wiring the brain

This week began with a lecture on wiring of the brain. We learned about the genesis of neurons. Briefly put, it begins with the cell proliferation: neural stem cells give rise to neurones and glia. This is followed by cell migration, where pyramidal cells and astrocytes migrate vertically from the ventricular zone by moving along thin radial glial fibers, where as inhibitory interneurons and oligodendrocytes migrate laterally. The brain structure could be said to evolve “inside out”, since the cells to first migrate move to the subplate layer, and the cells that next divide migrate to the cortical plate. Following migration cells differentiated begin to serve their programmed function. All this happens in a very controlled way — intuitively it can be assumed that small changes in the initial steps can result in quite drastic developmental errors. Nevertheless, what these errors look like were unfamiliar to me; it was quite interesting to see the structural deficiencies in monkey striate cortex when LGN input is degenerated early on in fetal development.

This week included an excursion to BABA centre at the Helsinki Children’s Hospital. This was one the most interesting excursion so far, as we got to hear a lot about different occupations held by non-physicians at the hospital. It was also interesting to see similar equipment (for example, EEG) in a hospital setting and hear about job opportunities we as engineers could apply for to work in a hospital. Not having heard much about what a medical physicist does, it was interesting to hear all the details directly from one. We also had the privilege to listen to a presentation given on one of the employee’s master’s thesis. Listening to all this we came to realise that even though the topics were never related to solely brain structure and operation, having prior knowledge on those topics surely helps in the job on a daily basis.

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