Broad Brain Plasticity – Direct Evidence

I missed this one when it was first reported back in November in Scientific American Mind.

A novel research technique has yielded the first physical evidence that new experiences and stimuli have broad, rather than just local, plastic impact throughout both hemispheres of the brain.

Santiago Canals, a biological cyberneticist currently at the Institute of Neurosciences in Alicante, Spain, and his team triggered nerve cells in the brains of rats with small doses of electric current, studying the effects on neuronal structures in real time.

“We have learned that what we call neuronal plasticity isn’t exclusive to individual synapses or even the neurons where they contact but rather occurs throughout the functional network in which synapses and neurons are embedded,” Canals says. “Those networks are absent in brain slices, so they couldn’t be studied before.”

(Note: I’m not sure about the claim that this is the first study to show large scale plastic change; here is a prior study that showed broad impacts of plasticity in human subjects using fMRI.)

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