Neuronal Development

Embryologically, the nervous system derives from the thickening and infolding of the ectoderm, which also gives rise to the skin. Common progenitor cells give rise to both neurons and glia. Nerve cells retain many characteristics of epithelia, e.g., a polarized structure, little intracellular space, and the presence of numerous contacts between cells. The bulk of neurons in mammals are generated before birth, and once differentiated neurons are almost exclusively postmitotic. However, as with most well-established truths about the nervous system, this concept has had to be revised in light of evidence that nerve cells in some brain regions continue to be produced throughout the life of the organism, notably in the olfactory bulb and the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus. Work has also established that pluripotent stem cells are found in the brains and spinal cords of adult animals, which are capable of transforming into neurons and glia when given the proper signals.

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