Mathematical model unlocks key to brain wiring

18 May 2012

A new mathematical model designed to predict the connections made by nerve fibres during brain development may help in the prevention of cognitive disorders.

The model, constructed by scientists at the Queensland Brain Institute (QBI) at The University of Queensland (UQ), gives new insight into how changing chemical levels in nerve fibres can modify nerve wiring underpinning crucial connections in the brain.

Professor Geoff Goodhill from the Queensand Brain Institute and UQ’s School of Maths and Physics says whilst scientists have long known that nerve wiring can be altered, only now are they understanding why this is the case.

“For a number of decades we’ve known that nerve pathways can be reversed by changing the levels of certain chemicals in the nerve fibre, but we haven’t understood why this is the case,” says Professor Goodhill.

“This mathematical model allows us to not only understand how changing levels of Calcium and cAMP in nerve fibres can affect signaling in the brain during both development and regeneration, but it also enables us to predict when these changes will be made.”

Correct brain wiring is fundamental for normal brain function and recent discoveries suggest wiring problems underpin a number of nervous system disorders including autism, dyslexia, Down's syndrome, Tourette's syndrome and Parkinson's disease.

This model demonstrates the important role of mathematics in understanding how the brain works and preventing such disorders.

To view an ABC interview with Professor Geoff Goodhill regarding the new mathematical model please visit: