Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Cortical Hem...ing and Hawing

So what is cortical hemming and hawing? Well hemming and hawing is probably much more well known than is the cortical hem. The former can be defined as speaking intermittently, or stammering, while going on and on about something. It may also refer to "beating around the bush" or not really getting to the point. Thus, hemming and hawing seems an appropriate descriptor for my writing style, as well as for blogging in general. As for the cortical part, the plan is to blog mostly about neuroscience and other brain and biology related topics (where cortical refers to the cerebral cortex, the part of the brain that is responsible for most of the things we think of as "higher cognitive functions", like consciousness, memory, learning and language), but there is also a pun in there (sadly, intended) where, during embryonic development, as the brain is being formed, an area that is made up of neurons and epithelia establishes a boundary between the hippocampus (the brain area most heavily linked to learning and memory) and the choroid plexus of the lateral ventricles (the part of the brain that produces cerebrospinal fluid), and this area is called the cortical hem. Ultimately, the hem does not persist in this form, but likely gives rise to reelin-expressing cells that can be found in the outermost layer of the cerebral cortex (reelin being a protein that is expressed by migrating neural cells). I won't go into any more detail on the hem as I was really just using it for the pun, and its not really the focus of the blog. My hope is to keep things a bit simpler in the future.
The figure is from Grove et. al. 1998 Development. Jun;125(12):2315-25.

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