Neurobiology, the science of the brain and nervous system Our brains are constructed of 100 billion individual cells that communicate with each other via a complex network of connections. We are beginning to understand which processes are involved, how neurons make connections, and which chemical substances they use to communicate − but the brain remains a mystery.
The brain and the nervous system are delicate systems, and so sometimes something goes fundamentally wrong, giving rise to a brain or nervous disease. Neurons in the brain, in the spinal cord, and elsewhere can die off and thus cause Alzheimer's disease or Parkinson's disease, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), multiple sclerosis (MS), or peripheral neuropathies. Bacterial or viral infections of the brain can lead to meningitis, a serious inflammation of the brain. Obstructed blood flow can cause a stroke, and tumors can result in structural damage to the brain. Some disorders − including disturbances in thinking, the emotions or behavior − have less apparent organic origins and are usually classified as mental or psychological disorders. Better understanding of these diseases is a first step toward finding solutions. Neurobiologists are occupied with these matters every day.
Tiny fruit fly, tremendous model
The fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster) is a perfect model for a number of human problems − even for diseases of the human brain. Furthermore, they are easy to experiment with: they take up very little space, and they do not r
Contact: Sooike Stoops
VIB, Flanders Interuniversity Institute of Biotechnology