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Building the brain is like erecting a house of cards. The early connections provide the foundation of the adult structure, and disruption of these may be the source of many developmental flaws. Cerebral cortical developmental disorders (including schizophrenia and autism) and perinatal injuries involve cortical neurons with early connectivity. The major hindrance of progress in understanding the early neural circuits during cortical development and disease has been the lack of reliable markers for specific cell populations. Due to the advance of powerful approaches in gene expression analysis and the utility of models with reporter gene expressions in specific cortical cell types, our knowledge of the early cortical circuits is rapidly increasing. With focus on the sub-plate, layer VI and layer V projection neurons, we shall illustrate the progress made in the understanding of their neurochemical properties, physiological characteristics and their integration into the early intracortical and extracortical circuitry. This field benefited from recent developments in mouse genetics in generating models with subtype specific gene expression patterns, powerful cell dissection and separation methods combined with microarray analysis. The emergence of cortical cell type specific biomarkers will not only help neuropathological diagnosis, but will also eventually reveal the causal relations in the pathogenesis of various cortical developmental disorders.


Journal article


Novartis Found Symp

Publication Date





212 - 224


Animals, Axons, Cell Differentiation, Cerebral Cortex, Embryo, Mammalian, Genes, Developmental, Humans, Models, Biological, Nerve Net, Neurons, Time Factors