Human Cell Overview (01:58)
The body is comprised of more than 200 types of cells; research is revealing their ability to transform according to their environment.
Human Life Origins (04:43)
Learn about the process of follicle growth, release to the uterus, and fertilization. The ovum is the largest cell in the body, at .01 millimeters. View a high-resolution image of a fertilized egg and nuclei dividing.
Implantation and Development (03:18)
The fertilized egg attaches to the uterus; at five months its cells are making choices. A British study found that if a pregnant woman diets, her child will tend to become fat because its cell DNA has changed in response to nutritional signals.
Prenatal Diet and Child Obesity (02:42)
British researchers found that if a pregnant woman dieted, more pluripotent mesenchymal stem cells in umbilical cords turned into fat cells—suggesting a lifelong tendency towards being overweight. Cells change DNA according to environmental factors in a mechanism called epigenetic modification.
Placenta and Umbilical Cord (03:28)
Learn about the processes that sustain the fetus inside the uterus. Low nutrition levels in a mother's blood signal food scarcity to the fetus; its cells switch to fat cells for survival.
Cell Survival Choices (03:13)
Cells such as melanocytes and epithelial cells transform in response to environmental factors. Neurons are long living cells. Researchers color-coded a mouse brain cross section to create a nerve cell model.
Neuron Exploration (02:34)
There are 80 billion nerve cells in the human brain. Dendritic spines connect to one another when we learn or experience something new.
Language Learning Experiment (03:37)
Babies younger than 10 months can tell the difference between two Hindi sounds indistinguishable to the adult Western ear. The study shows we are born prepared to learn all languages, an ability we lose as we develop.
Decreasing Language Learning Ability (03:36)
Multilingual Harvard University researcher Takao Hensch identified a substance, Lynx1, which interferes with neuron connections as we age. It is also found in snake venom. Creating new neural pathways is difficult as we age.
Brain Plasticity Study (02:04)
Researchers found genetically modified mice without Lynx1 suffered neuron loss similar to Alzheimer's disease. Adapting to constantly changing environments causes neuron damage; we lose the ability to absorb knowledge as a protective mechanism.
Neuron Maturation Strategy (02:04)
Beginning at age 4, the brain gradually loses plasticity in basic functions, senses, and pre-frontal cortex functions. Teenagers lacking decision and planning skills retain space for mental growth.
Harmony Project (02:54)
An after school program offers free music lessons to low income 10 year olds, an age when neuron connection formation is decreasing. Their academic performance has improved and many are going on to attend college.
Learning Music and Brain Plasticity (01:57)
Researchers collect data from Harmony Project participants to study how music lessons improve their academic performance. Learning an instrument increases neuron thickness.
Neuron Thickening Mechanism (04:03)
Glial cells wrap around axons in a process called myelination allowing electrical impulses to jump across pathways—increasing brain plasticity among music learners. Myelination increases transmission speed in complex mental tasks and allows us to continue learning as we age.
Harmony Project Outcomes (02:24)
The music program for low-income children shows we can overcome social circumstances to improve brain plasticity. Margaret Martin founded the project to give children a better chance in life.
Inherited Stress Sensitivity (03:59)
9/11 left many with PTSD. Pregnant women with low cortisol levels gave birth to babies with similar effects, likely triggered by epigenetic reactions through the placenta. Cells attempted to make children sensitive to anxiety as a survival mechanism.
Credits: The Power of Cells (00:21)
Credits: The Power of Cells
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