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Concept: Neural tube


Increasing evidence suggests that the basic foundations of the self lie in the brain systems that represent the body. Specific sensorimotor stimulation has been shown to alter the bodily self. However, little is known about how disconnection of the brain from the body affects the phenomenological sense of the body and the self. Spinal cord injury (SCI) patients who exhibit massively reduced somatomotor processes below the lesion in the absence of brain damage are suitable for testing the influence of body signals on two important components of the self-the sense of disembodiment and body ownership. We recruited 30 SCI patients and 16 healthy participants, and evaluated the following parameters: (i) depersonalization symptoms, using the Cambridge Depersonalization Scale (CDS), and (ii) measures of body ownership, as quantified by the rubber hand illusion (RHI) paradigm. We found higher CDS scores in SCI patients, which show increased detachment from their body and internal bodily sensations and decreasing global body ownership with higher lesion level. The RHI paradigm reveals no alterations in the illusory ownership of the hand between SCI patients and controls. Yet, there was no typical proprioceptive drift in SCI patients with intact tactile sensation on the hand, which might be related to cortical reorganization in these patients. These results suggest that disconnection of somatomotor inputs to the brain due to spinal cord lesions resulted in a disturbed sense of an embodied self. Furthermore, plasticity-related cortical changes might influence the dynamics of the bodily self.

Concepts: Nervous system, Brain, Sensory system, Sense, Cerebrospinal fluid, Neural tube, Proprioception, Physical trauma


Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause serious brain abnormalities, but the full range of adverse outcomes is unknown (1). To better understand the impact of birth defects resulting from Zika virus infection, the CDC surveillance case definition established in 2016 for birth defects potentially related to Zika virus infection* (2) was retrospectively applied to population-based birth defects surveillance data collected during 2013-2014 in three areas before the introduction of Zika virus (the pre-Zika years) into the World Health Organization’s Region of the Americas (Americas) (3). These data, from Massachusetts (2013), North Carolina (2013), and Atlanta, Georgia (2013-2014), included 747 infants and fetuses with one or more of the birth defects meeting the case definition (pre-Zika prevalence = 2.86 per 1,000 live births). Brain abnormalities or microcephaly were the most frequently recorded (1.50 per 1,000), followed by neural tube defects and other early brain malformations(†) (0.88), eye abnormalities without mention of a brain abnormality (0.31), and other consequences of central nervous system (CNS) dysfunction without mention of brain or eye abnormalities (0.17). During January 15-September 22, 2016, the U.S. Zika Pregnancy Registry (USZPR) reported 26 infants and fetuses with these same defects among 442 completed pregnancies (58.8 per 1,000) born to mothers with laboratory evidence of possible Zika virus infection during pregnancy (2). Although the ascertainment methods differed, this finding was approximately 20 times higher than the proportion of one or more of the same birth defects among pregnancies during the pre-Zika years. These data demonstrate the importance of population-based surveillance for interpreting data about birth defects potentially related to Zika virus infection.

Concepts: Central nervous system, Nervous system, Pregnancy, Childbirth, Brain, Embryo, Abortion, Neural tube


All vertebrate brains develop following a common Bauplan defined by anteroposterior (AP) and dorsoventral (DV) subdivisions, characterized by largely conserved differential expression of gene markers. However, it is still unclear how this Bauplan originated during evolution. We studied the relative expression of 48 genes with key roles in vertebrate neural patterning in a representative amphioxus embryonic stage. Unlike nonchordates, amphioxus develops its central nervous system (CNS) from a neural plate that is homologous to that of vertebrates, allowing direct topological comparisons. The resulting genoarchitectonic model revealed that the amphioxus incipient neural tube is unexpectedly complex, consisting of several AP and DV molecular partitions. Strikingly, comparison with vertebrates indicates that the vertebrate thalamus, pretectum, and midbrain domains jointly correspond to a single amphioxus region, which we termed Di-Mesencephalic primordium (DiMes). This suggests that these domains have a common developmental and evolutionary origin, as supported by functional experiments manipulating secondary organizers in zebrafish and mice.

Concepts: Central nervous system, Nervous system, DNA, Gene, Genetics, Brain, Evolution, Neural tube


To determine the feasibility of next-generation sequencing (NGS) microbiome approaches in the diagnosis of infectious disorders in brain or spinal cord biopsies in patients with suspected CNS infections.

Concepts: Central nervous system, Nervous system, Psychology, Neuron, Brain, Human brain, Neural tube, Meninges


Brain function relies on communication between large populations of neurons across multiple brain areas, a full understanding of which would require knowledge of the time-varying activity of all neurons in the central nervous system. Here we use light-sheet microscopy to record activity, reported through the genetically encoded calcium indicator GCaMP5G, from the entire volume of the brain of the larval zebrafish in vivo at 0.8 Hz, capturing more than 80% of all neurons at single-cell resolution. Demonstrating how this technique can be used to reveal functionally defined circuits across the brain, we identify two populations of neurons with correlated activity patterns. One circuit consists of hindbrain neurons functionally coupled to spinal cord neuropil. The other consists of an anatomically symmetric population in the anterior hindbrain, with activity in the left and right halves oscillating in antiphase, on a timescale of 20 s, and coupled to equally slow oscillations in the inferior olive.

Concepts: Central nervous system, Nervous system, Neuron, Brain, Biology, Cerebellum, Neural tube, Meninges


During neural tube formation, neural plate cells migrate from the lateral aspects of the dorsal surface towards the midline. Elevation of the lateral regions of the neural plate produces the neural folds which then migrate to the midline where they fuse at their dorsal tips, generating a closed neural tube comprising an apicobasally polarized neuroepithelium. Our previous study identified a novel role for the axon guidance receptor neogenin in Xenopus neural tube formation. We demonstrated that loss of neogenin impeded neural fold apposition and neural tube closure. This study also revealed that neogenin, via its interaction with its ligand, RGMa, promoted cell-cell adhesion between neural plate cells as the neural folds elevated and between neuroepithelial cells within the neural tube. The second neogenin ligand, netrin-1, has been implicated in cell migration and epithelial morphogenesis. Therefore, we hypothesized that netrin-1 may also act as a ligand for neogenin during neurulation. Here we demonstrate that morpholino knockdown of Xenopus netrin-1 results in delayed neural fold apposition and neural tube closure. We further show that netrin-1 functions in the same pathway as neogenin and RGMa during neurulation. However, contrary to the role of neogenin-RGMa interactions, neogenin-netrin-1 interactions are not required for neural fold elevation or adhesion between neuroepithelial cells. Instead, our data suggest that netrin-1 contributes to the migration of the neural folds towards the midline. We conclude that both neogenin ligands work synergistically to ensure neural tube closure. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc., 2013.

Concepts: Axon, Embryology, Neural tube, Neurulation, Developmental neuroscience, Neural plate, Neural folds, Neural groove


In the field of developmental biology, live imaging is a powerful tool for studying, in real time, the dynamic behaviors of tissues and cells during organ formation. Mammals, which develop in utero, have presented a challenge for live imaging. Here, we offer a novel, prolonged and robust live imaging system for visualizing the development of a variety of embryonic tissues in the midgestation mouse embryo. We demonstrate the advantages of this imaging system by following the dynamics of neural tube closure during mouse embryogenesis and reveal extensive movements of the cranial neural tissue that are independent of neural fold zipping.

Concepts: Embryo, Developmental biology, Cellular differentiation, Embryology, Human development, Morphogenesis, Neural tube, Drosophila embryogenesis


To examine whether in utero exposure to mercury (Hg), cadmium (Cd), lead (Pb) and arsenic (As) is associated with an elevated neural tube defects (NTDs) risk, placental concentrations of total Hg, Cd, Pb and As were measured with an inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometer (ICP-MS) in 36 anencephaly and 44 spina bifida cases as well as in 50 healthy controls. The median Hg concentration in the NTD cases (2.25ng/g) was higher than that of the controls (1.16ng/g). The odds ratio (OR) for an Hg concentration above the median was 8.80 (95% CI, 3.80-20.36) for the NTD cases. NTD risks increased for the second and third high levels of the concentrations, with ORs of 2.70 (95% CI, 1.13-6.43) and 18.20 (95% CI, 5.45-60.73), respectively. Therefore, higher placental levels of Hg are associated with an elevated risk of NTDs.

Concepts: Mercury, Silver, Neural tube, Occupational safety and health, Chemical elements, Spina bifida, Neural tube defect, Anencephaly


We examined whether prevalences of neural tube defects (NTDs), orofacial clefts, and gastroschisis changed more rapidly after than before folic acid fortification in California.

Concepts: Central nervous system, Folic acid, Folate deficiency, Cleft lip and palate, Neural tube, Spina bifida, Neural tube defect, Anencephaly


Limited dorsal myeloschisis (LDM) is a distinctive form of spinal dysraphism characterized by a focal midline neural tube defect associated with tethering of the dorsal spinal cord to the overlying skin (1-4). Since prenatal diagnosis is rare, we stress in this letter the importance of distinguishing it from myelomeningocele as they have a very different prognosis.

Concepts: Spinal cord, Obstetrics, Folic acid, Paralysis, Neural tube, Spina bifida, Neural tube defect, Anencephaly