Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

In 2017 we celebrated five years of bringing you beautiful imagery from biomedical science

Practice Makes Perfect
16 December 2014

Practice Makes Perfect

The hardest step in ballet is called a fouetté – a turn on tip-toe propelled by a whipping motion of the leg. Ballerinas practise for thousands of hours to perfect the movement until it seems easy and seamless. Practice makes perfect because repetition of movement switches on genes that build new neural pathways in the cerebellum, a region of the brain that contains half of the brain’s neurons and controls complex movements. Researchers studying the cerebellum in rats (a cross-section is shown) discovered that the process of switching genes on and off in response to external stimuli is orchestrated by a master gene called SNF2H. They found that rats with the gene inactivated had a cerebellum one third of the normal size and struggled to coordinate movement and find balance, let alone do fouettés. This ability of the environment to modify one’s genetic profile is known as epigenetics.

Written by Tristan Farrow

Search The Archive

Submit An Image

What is BPoD?

BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

Read More