Organogenesis: Neurulation & Cell Migration

Organogenesis: Neurulation & Cell Migration
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  • 00:00 Organogenesis
  • 1:04 Neurulation
  • 3:07 Cell Migration
  • 4:44 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

How do embryos begin forming organs? Good question. That's what we're exploring in this lesson on organogensis. Discover how neurulation and cell migration help embryos develop organs.


Some people don't seem to have a lot of common sense. It's always surprising, but no matter where you go, you always find someone who just doesn't seem to use their brain. Well, maybe if they understood everything that went in to forming that brain, they'd appreciate it a lot more.

The brain, like other organs, doesn't just appear in developing embryos. It has to be carefully created. We call the process of producing and developing cells in an embryo organogenesis. It's an important stage. At this point, the embryo exists essentially as three germ layers, or layers of developing cells. These layers are the ectoderm, mesoderm and endoderm. During organogenesis, these germ layers start becoming some of the organs the organism will need to survive, like the brain. So, even if they don't end up using it as much as they should, they've still got one.


Now you've got a lot of organs within you and there's a lot we could talk about here, but let's start with the beginning of this process. In vertebrates, one of the most important early parts of organogenesis is neurulation, the folding process of germ layers in the embryo. Now, why would we want to fold parts of an embryo? Think about it. What organ has lots of folds in it? The brain!

Neurulation is really the early development of the nervous system, which is pretty important. It starts with a flexible rod structure in the embryo called the notochord. The notochord is made of cells from the mesoderm layer of the embryo and is a precursor for the vertebrate. The notochord kicks off neurulation by inducing a part of the neighboring ectoderm layer, or sending molecules from one cell to another to influence their development. Molecules from the notochord influence the development of this part of the ectodermal layer.

So, what does the notochord influence the ectodermal layer to do? Basically, it tells the cells to form a collection of tissues called the neural plate, a developmental structure that is the basis of the nervous system. So, we've got this neural plate with cells that want to become part of the central nervous system. Now, remember what's going on in neurulation? Folding! It's like embryonic origami. We take this neural plate, and we fold it so that the ends are touching, and voilà! We've turned this neural plate into a neural tube, the precursor developmental organ for the brain and spinal cord. Yep, this is what the first version of your brain looks like. From here, it will turn into a more complex organ capable of controlling all of the functions of a complex organism, but for now, it's just starting to develop.

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