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[2020/11/06] How are the Cranial Nerves that Govern Habitual Movement and Emotional Motivation Formed? NYMU Institute of Neuroscience has Found the Key Gene

National Yang-Ming University Institute of Neuroscience Professor Liu (right) and the First Author of the Paper, Dr. Chen

 

The formation of habits and behavioral addiction is related to genetics. National Yang-Ming University has found the key gene that regulates basal striatum neural differentiation and migration and this not only explains how the neurons that control habitual movement and emotional motivation are formed, but also unravels the molecular mechanism behind these neural circuits.

 

The basal ganglia which are a group of neural nuclei deep in the brain control behavior learning, reward, motivation, emotions and autonomous movement. The normal function of these neurons is dependent on the neural circuits present in the dorsal and medial nuclei of the basal ganglia. The dorsal nucleus controls movement and cognitive function, and is the key area associated with habit formation. The medial nucleus controls the mechanisms behind reward and addition, and is the key area for emotional motivation. However, how the circuits within these two areas are formed and develop has remained unknown until now.

 

A Chart outlining the Mechanism behind the Development of the Basal Ganglia

 

About 16 years ago, National Yang-Ming University Institute of Neuroscience Professor Liu and one of his students Chang (currently an Associate Professor at China Medical University in Taiwan) discovered a gene, Nolz-1, that is expressed in the mammalian brain. They suspected that the gene participates in the genetic development of the striatum but the mechanism was unknown. Now, 16 years later, after supervising four PhD students, Chang, Ke, Lu, and Chen, Professor Liu’s team has discovered that, after a mitotic event takes place, Nolz-1 inhibits expression of two genes, Dlx1 and Dlx2, which results in the stimulation of neural cell differentiation, cell migration and the development of the dorsal striatum and the medial striatum. Their findings prove that genetic interactions between Nozl-1, Dlx1 and Dlx2 regulate the differentiation of a range of different neurons.

 

The research has unveiled how the basal ganglia divide in order to create a series of different secondary neural circuits and this then allows the brain to carry out various precise and complicated neural functions. Liu remarked that whether dorsal or medial, the neurons all originate from stem cells present in the same area. The research wanted to answer the question as to why neurons from the same area are able to migrate and differentiate to form distinct areas and build neural circuits that have very different functions. The basal ganglia not only control various different neural functions, but these areas are also involved in several pathological mechanisms that are behind various neural diseases. These diseases include Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington disease, and schizophrenia. Understanding how the various different neural circuits are formed will be helpful in the future when developing treatments for neural and psychological diseases.

 

Professor Liu’s team has dedicated themselves to studying the development and functioning of neural circuits in the basal ganglia for many years. Over this time they have made important findings related to the neural circuit controlling primitive speaking skills, as well as the present research on basal ganglia division. The latest research has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

 

Professor Liu (front row right) and the members of his laboratory

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

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