Sunday, November 29

Neuroscience identifies the genes that allow three-dimensional vision


Recreation of the retina used in the research.

Recreation of the retina used in the research.
Elosia Herrera

A group of researchers from Institute of Neurosciences from Miguel Hernández University and the CSIC, led by doctor Eloísa Herrera, has discovered an essential genetic program for the formation of bilateral circuits, such as the one that makes possible the 3D vision or the coordination of movements on both sides of the body. The finding, carried out in mice, was published yesterday in the Science Advances magazine.

This new study not only clarifies how the transmission of images from the retina to the brain to be able to see in 3D, but it will also help to understand how laterality is established in other neural circuits, such as the one that makes motor coordination between both sides of the body possible, explains Dr. Herrera.

The work also reveals the important role of the Zic2 protein in the regulation of a signaling pathway called Wnt, which is essential for the correct development of the embryo and is highly conserved between species, from fruit flies to humans, through the mice in which this study has been carried out.

This pathway is usually altered in pathological scenarios such as spina bifida or other disorders associated with incomplete closure of the neural tube, as well as in various types of cancer. The new details described in this work on the regulation of this pathway through Zic2 will help to understand the origin of this type of pathology to try to prevent its appearance.

The ability to perceive the world in 3D and responding adequately to external stimuli depends to a great extent on a type of neuronal circuits called bilateral, which communicate the two cerebral hemispheres and are essential for many of the tasks we perform on a daily basis.

Nerve fibers

These bilateral circuits require both the crossing of a part of the nerve fibers to the contralateral cerebral hemisphere from which they come as the permanence of the other half in their hemisphere of origin. «The genetic program that we have identified ensures that a part of the neurons located in the retina carry visual information to the opposite cerebral hemisphere, and the action of a protein called Zic2 turns off this program in another group of retinal neurons to achieve that the visual signal it also reaches the same hemisphere ”, explains Herrera.

Years ago, the doctor’s group discovered that the Zic2 protein makes bilaterality possible by ensuring that part of the neuron extensions (axons) remain in the same hemisphere from which they come. And in this new work they describe that to make the axons stay in the same hemisphere, Zic2 turns off the genetic program that makes them cross to the opposite hemisphere.

“This finding has allowed us to identify the contralateral program and observe that it shares common elements with a well-known signaling pathway, called Wnt, involved in various processes of embryonic development”, highlights Herrera, who directs the Development and assembly of bilateral circuits group in the nervous system of the Institute of Neurosciences.

The discovery has been made in the visual pathway of mice, which bears great similarity to the visual pathway of many other mammals, including humans.

2.5 million to match objects and thought

Recently the Institute of Neurosciences of the UMH and the CSIC have received 2.5 million euros to study how the objects we build influence our cognitive processes. “It is the largest active visual perception experiment to date in natural and social conditions,” says the researcher. Luis M. Martínez Otero.

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