Aside from evolutionary change itself, there are three main sources of variabilÂ ity in neural networks: the somatic developmental sequence, which is responsiÂ ble for network formation and neuroanatomy; the chemical and structural variation at synapses (particularly that related to neurotransmitters and chanÂ nels); and the electrical variation that depends both upon intrinsic cellular metabolism and external signals. These processes emerge in a clear-cut order of development. It is just as clear, however, that none of these processes is fully independent of the others, although their relative contributions vary in time. While much has been done to study neurotransmitters and electrical activity in the last three decades, only recently has it become possible to study the molecular bases of constancy and variation in network formation, fiber tract mapping, and the establishment of the earliest contacts of nerve and muscle. One of the key elements in this molecular analysis has been the development of a concerted series of assays (4, 12, 13, 32) that unequivocally establish criteria for the isolation and structural and functional characterization of cell adhesion molecules (CAMs). Prior to this approach, the evidence for the existence of such molecules was sparse and unconvincing, but since its
Annual Review of Physiology – Annual Reviews
Published: Mar 1, 1986
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