Glia and postnatal maturation of the brain circuits

Introduction: : In the nervous system, a synapse is a structure that permits a neuron to pass an electrical or chemical signal to another neuron. At the junction between two neurons, thus, the synapse is a miniscule gap, about 20 nanometers wide — a point of virtual contact. This physical gap functions as the site of communication from one neuron to another through chemical signals. Given a non-stop flurry of messages, synapses are crucial for brain function, including behavior and cognition. Without well-formed and well-running synapses, learning, memorizing, planning, and reasoning become slower or even impossible. Currently, disorders of the brain affect 1:3 people in industrialized countries and represent the most prevalent and debilitating diseases. Importantly, most of these disorders are caused by synaptic dysfunction. Yet neurons do not function in isolation; they are a part of elaborate glial networks where they are intimately associated with other brain cells including synapses. Given the intimate association of astrocytes and microglia with synapses and their contribution to the formation, function and plasticity of synapses, it is likely that glial dysfunction contributes to the pathophysiology of various brain disorders and that glial cell emerge as cellular target for diagnosis and therapeutic interventions.

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