What is Neural Development?

Charity Delich

Nervous systems allow human beings to send and receive messages and to process impulses occurring in their bodies. These impulses are sent and received by nerves, which are are bundles of peripheral axons that run to various organs and tissues throughout the human body. The human body’s process of creating its nervous systems is called neural development. Development of the neural system can take place throughout a person’s entire life - from embryonic development to adulthood.

Neurons are specialized cells that transmit information within the brain.
Neurons are specialized cells that transmit information within the brain.

The importance of proper neural development can be seen on a daily basis. Consider, for example, the functions that take place when a person touches a hot stove. When the stove is touched, nerve impulses communicate this interaction by sending signals through the nerve network to the person’s brain. Neurons, also called neural cells, tell the brain that the stove is too painful to touch and that the hand should be moved away from the stove.

The idea of the fixed brain was based on childhood development of what are called synapses, or connections between two neurons.
The idea of the fixed brain was based on childhood development of what are called synapses, or connections between two neurons.

Neural development focuses on the central, the peripheral, and the autonomic nervous systems. The central nervous system, which includes the brain and spinal cord, issues nerve impulses and evaluates sensory information. The peripheral nervous system takes nerve impulses to and from the body and its structures, and the autonomic nervous system controls vital organ function. Although the structure of the nervous system appears about 18 days after conception, it usually starts to become functional during the second prenatal month.

At the embryonic stage, several key neural development processes typically take place – neurulation, formation of the spinal cord, and formation of the brain. During neurulation, the neural tube is formed from the embryo’s ectoderm. The spinal cord is then eventually formed from the lower part of the neural tube while the brain is formed from the upper portion.

Scientists who specialize in neuroscience or developmental biology study, among other things, neural development processes. Typically, they seek to shed light on the cellular and molecular mechanisms by which the nervous systems form. They may examine everything from nervous system patterns and regionalization, neural stem cells, and synapse formation to axonal and dendritic development, neuronal migration, and trophic interactions.

Deficiencies in neural development can result in cognitive, motor, and intellectual disabilities. If the defects are severe enough, they can result in neurological disorders like Rett syndrome, mental retardation, epilepsy, and autism. Many neural development problems surface during middle age. Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and Huntington’s disease are some examples of neurological conditions that manifest themselves later on in life.

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Discussion Comments


@sinbad - I was pumped to hear in my graduate school neurology class about neuroplasticity. There is of course a lot of development of neural connections while we are infants and as we grow into teenagers, and it was thought for a while that in essence at some point in our early years we had all the brain cells we were going to have.

Not so! As it turns out that even into our latter years our brains remain plastic (meaning they change). I have heard recently that learning new skills is a great way to grow neurally as well as simply doing everyday things differently such as taking a different way home or to work can aid your brain growth.

As far as preventing Alzheimer's (I do not know anything about Parkinson's and Huntington's) I have read that things such as physical activity, not smoking, and body weight may make a difference in Alzheimer's but the specifics of those things I am not sure of.

But my favorite tip is from a study that I read on a news website that reported drinking one alcoholic beverage (for women) or two alcoholic beverages (for men) a day may also decrease your possibility at getting Alzheimer's disease. They think it may have something to do with inflammation.

So in short - yes you can promote your neural growth, how great is that?!


I had heard that Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and Huntington’s disease are all affected by your neural development or changes in your neural development, I wondered if you can do anything to help protect those neural pathways to prevent or slow the progress of the those various disorders.

So I guess my question is can you promote neural development?

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