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Cell division Growth of the embryo

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1 3 Neural plate
4 5 7

Neural
tube

Cluster of cells Neural tube forms The tube closes Rapid cell division Vesicles develop
After a sperm has fertilized an egg, By the 16th day of development, the The tube then closes along the After the tube has closed, the During this rapid cell division, three
the cell divides until it becomes a neural plate has emerged from the midseam, like a zipper, followed by single layer of cells begins to vesicles emerge from the front
mulberry-shaped cluster of cells. outermost layer of the embryo. the closure of the front end, then rapidly divide. A newborn's brain end of the neural tube. The first
As cells continue to divide, some This single sheet of cells will give the rear end. has 20 billion neurons, which and third vesicles divide to create a
will form an inner grouping, which rise to the entire nervous system. If the rear end of the neural tube means the fetal brain must total of five vesicles. These will
will become the embryo. Other At around 21 days, the neural plate does not properly close, the fetus generate some 250,000 neurons become the major portions of the
cells will form an outer grouping, buckles in the middle and the sheet will have some form of spina bifida. every minute to meet that brain.
which will become the embryo's of cells curves together to form a demand. The embryo now measures about
support tissue, including the tube. 20 mm in length and all essential
placenta. organs have begun to form.

Development of the fetus


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12 20 26 32 40

Neurons proliferate Neurons make connections Nervous system Sculpting neural pathways Birth
Neurons are being produced at a Between the 20th and 24th weeks, The peripheral nervous system has Neurons continue to generate, A newborn's brain has 20 billion
rate of up to 50,000 per second. neurons that have migrated to the just connected with the cerebral migrate and make connections. But neurons and a trillion synaptic
The neurons, which are produced in appropriate place now extend cortex, the brain region responsible in the last months of fetal life, the connections. Most pronounced in
the middle of the brain, migrate axons and dendrites — nerve fibres for higher thought processes brain starts to prune back excess the first 12 months, brain growth
outwards towards the surface and that send and receive electrical including memory, awareness and neurons, eliminating cells and and development continues for
self-organize into different brain signals — to connect with other language. connections that are weak or years after birth. The brain is little
structures. neurons. This forms the complex Fetal experts say it is now possible duplicate. more than one-quarter of its adult
The head makes up nearly half of neural circuitry that allows for a fetus to have some level of By 32 weeks, a fetus has defined size and the higher regions of the
the fetus' size. Any movement seen communication between cells. awareness. This is when a fetus sleep states, including deep, REM brain, including the cerebral cortex,
in an ultrasound image is merely begins to respond to pain. sleep. At this time, a preterm infant are still primitive.
reflex and not deliberate exploring. has developed the ability to see.
COMPILED BY MEGAN OGILVIE GRAPHICS BY CATHERINE FARLEY/TORONTO STAR