Advancements in MRI are giving us an unprecedented look at the fetal brain.
Until approximately a decade ago, what researchers knew about the developing prenatal brain came primarily from analyzing the brains of aborted or miscarried fetuses. But studying postmortem brains can be confounding because scientists can’t definitively pinpoint whether the injuries to the brain occurred before or during birth.
Over the years, however, improvements to MRI are finally enabling researchers to study the developing brain in real time. With these advancements, researchers are just beginning to understand how normal brains develop, and how abnormalities can manifest over the course of development. Scientists cataloguing typical infant brain development with the mini-MRI hope to use it eventually to study the brains of premature babies, who have a high risk of brain damage. Ultimately, clinicians hope to intervene early with therapies, if available and approved, to prevent developmental disorders when there are signs of brain damage in utero or shortly after birth.
Under normal light, the South American polka dot tree frog (Hypsiboas punctatus) sports a muted palette of greens, yellows and reds. But dim the lights and switch on ultraviolet illumination, and this little amphibian gives off a bright blue and green glow.
The ability to absorb light at short wavelengths and re-emit it at longer wavelengths is called fluorescence, and is rare in terrestrial animals. Until now, it was unheard of in amphibians. Researchers also report that the polka dot tree frog uses fluorescent molecules totally unlike those found in other animals. The team published the find on 13 March in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Besides being hermaphrodites — all snails have both boy and girl parts — they stab each other with “love darts” as a kind of foreplay. Watch our latest Deep Look for more about the extraordinary love lives of ordinary snails!