How loud noise can harm our ears is common knowledge, but biologists at University of California have pointed out that too much noise can be very harmful to your brain. With cutting-edge technology, Ivine biologists were able to determine that uncontrolled fluctuations, commonly referred to as ‘noise’, in the concentration of vitamin A derivative Retinoic acid (RA) may lead to disruptions in the brain segment during its developmental stage. Recognising how a cell responds to a signal transmitted by another cell, despite the level of noise present, may give us a better understanding of developmental disorders.

baby brain

While in development, RA is an important secreted unit that assists in proper brain functioning. The cellular response to RA is dependant upon its concentration, which is calculated by its production, movement through tissue and interactions with the several proteins present within the cell. In normal development, these cells can filter out the ‘noise’ in RA levels in order to establish proper brain organisation.

Researcher Thomas F. Schilling and lead author Julian Sosnik wished to map the fluctuations in RA and determine how responsive cells are despite the presence of constant noise. To study this, they used fluorescence lifetime imaging to utilize the auto-fluorescent nature of the RA and measure its distribution across the developing zebrafish embryo. They even noticed that a substantial amount of noise existed within the RA gradient.

They distinguished a single protein within developing cells that interacts with RA in order to reduce the noise. When this particular protein was altered, the cells could no longer control the level of noise within the RA gradient, and this led to disruptions in the brain organisation.

Using this data, the researchers concluded that noise reduction within cells is extremely essential for the proper response to the RA gradient and for the normal organisation of the brain.

The duo published their study online at eLife.