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Medical Student Unravels Mystery of Neuronal Circuits Development

Scientists have been uncertain whether the maturation of neuronal circuits is pre-determined by inborn mechanisms or influenced by external stimuli. Through a series of experiments conducted in immature and older mice, Dr. Ko Ho Owen, a medical Year 3 student of CUHK, discovered that after the onset of visual experience, neuronal circuits for processing visual information continue to organize themselves to form functional circuits. This extensive reorganization that occurs after eye-opening suggests that external stimuli contribute significantly in refining the maturation of neuronal circuits, whereas inborn mechanisms only partially contribute to this process. Owen’s findings strongly suggest that healthy development of brain neuronal circuits and its related functions are highly dependent on appropriate external stimuli soon after birth, and has increased human understanding on how early environmental exposure after birth may affect the maturation process of the brain and brain functions in infants. The findings were recently published in Nature (April 2013). This is also Owen’s second publication in this prestigious scientific journal.

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