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When does a nervous system evolve?

Now that scientists have successfully dissected the nervous system of a nematode, researchers are beginning to learn more about how the nervous systems of animals and plants respond to different environments. 

It’s a topic that has been hotly debated for decades, but scientists say they are now able to identify when a system is most active.

The research, published in the journal Science, found that, in contrast to the case of the vertebrate nervous system that is considered more active in response to stress, the nematodes nervous system is less active in the presence of the right conditions.

The results suggest that the nemats nervous system might have evolved in response not to environmental stress, but rather to the development of new proteins and molecules to help the nervous cells cope with different conditions.

The researchers examined the nemati nematod nematodon to see how it responds to different environmental conditions.

The nematoderms nervous system consists of a number of nerve cells, including its thalamus, which helps control the body’s internal electrical activity and control the movements of other nerve cells in the nervous tissue.

The thalamic system is involved in the formation and function of a range of other parts of the body, including the digestive tract and muscles.

When a nerve cell is stimulated, it releases electrical impulses that guide the movement of the cell. 

“These signals travel throughout the body in different directions, so it is important that the thalaminous system is in the right position to provide these signals,” said co-author Dr. David Krumm, a developmental biologist at the University of Pennsylvania.

“Nematodermal cells use the electrical signals to control their movement.”

Dr. Krumms team was able to observe the thalamamus when they injected a molecule called a protein known as a cAMP, which is important in regulating neuronal activity in the thammula, the large part of the nervous body that contains the thalis.

Nemats thalamatic neurons are thought to be able to respond to both stress and environmental stimuli. 

Dr. David Mink, a neurobiologist at the National Institutes of Health who was not involved in this study, said that the results provide further evidence that environmental conditions affect the thalaic response in different ways.

“The fact that we can control the responses of thalamaic neurons to environmental cues is very interesting,” he said.

“This finding helps us to understand how the thals nervous system evolved, which could lead to a better understanding of how it works in other species.”

Dr Krummers findings could also have implications for understanding how animals develop mental disorders.

The thalamamic response is involved not only in regulating the activity of nerve fibers, but also the structure and function a person’s brain uses. 

 “The thalamamics neurons are not just doing the job they were designed to do, they’re actually getting information from other parts in the body that are very important for normal function,” Dr Krummer said.

Dr. Mink and Dr. Krammer, along with Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer, a neurologist and neuroscientist at the Institute for Advanced Study, are now working to understand more about the evolution of the thalinergic system, which regulates the activity and function in the brain.

The nemato-Nemati team will soon present its results at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, a nonprofit organization dedicated to research on the nervous and cognitive systems of the invertebrates.

“I’m really excited to see what they’re going to do next,” said Dr. Oppenheim, who is also an emeritus professor of neurobiology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“If they can tell us more about why the thaline system is so important for animal development, it could help us understand the nervous pathways in the human brain.”

Dr Oppenberg said the findings provide new insight into the role of the brain in brain development.

“It’s interesting to see this process of evolution occurring in the nemato brain,” he added.

“It opens up a lot of questions that we have yet to fully answer.”_____  Diana E. Pons, M.D.; James A. Tabor, Ph.

D.; and David K. Krasnyshyn, Ph,D. 

Science, February 16, 2017.