Interneurons, a type of nerve cell responsible for communication between neural networks in parts of the brain, are special. While most brain cells spend their lives close to the site where they were generated, interneurons are generated in the base of developing brains (during the late fetal stage) and travel all the way to the hippocampus before the brain-bearer is born. It's a long, Donner-party-esque journey for a little cell, and 80 percent of those intrepid interneurons will die after reaching their destination.
Now, for the first time, NIH researchers have traced this journey. Previous research has suggested that communication between hippocampal nerve circuits is disrupted in developmental disorders such as autism and Alzheimer's disease. Researchers hope that, by mapping interneurons' path, they can more easily pinpoint if and where those diplomatic cells make a wrong turn in the brains of people with such conditions.
The researchers' findings appear in the Journal of Neuroscience.