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Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2011 Feb;21(1):5-10. doi: 10.1016/j.conb.2010.08.004.

Microglia in the developing brain: from immunity to behaviour.

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European Molecular Biology Laboratory, Meyerhofstrasse 1, 69117 Heidelberg, Germany.


For decades, microglia, the resident macrophages of the brain, have been recognized mostly for their role in several, if not all, pathologies affecting the brain. However, several studies under physiological conditions demonstrate that microglial function is indispensable also in the healthy brain. Indeed, microglia implement key functions already during development, such as the clearance of the huge amount of neurons that are produced in large excess in the embryo and later die of apoptosis. Beside these classical functions, however, novel roles are emerging that strikingly link microglia with higher order brain functions and show that these cells can ultimately influence behaviour. Therefore a detailed understanding of microglia under physiological conditions may open unprecedented perspectives in the prevention and treatment of neuropsychiatric diseases.

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