Reviving Brain Plasticity

ucsf-brain-scienceA team from the University of California in San Francisco have revived plasticity in the brains of young mice. The finding provides hope that future therapies may permit the repair of brain circuits after injury or disease.

The team transplanted a specific type of immature neuron from embryonic mice into the visual cortex of young mice – a method that doctors could theoretically use to treat neural circuits disrupted in abnormal fetal or postnatal development, stroke, traumatic brain injury, psychiatric illness and aging.

A naturally occurring signaling chemical (or neurotransmitter) known as GABA creates the conditions for acute plasticity in the visual cortex. The study, published in the journal Science, (Vol. 327. no. 5969, 2010), showed that transplanted embryonic neurons, once producing GABA, could induce plasticity in young mice even after the end of the normal critical period.

“The findings suggest it ultimately might be possible to use inhibitory neuron transplantation, or some factor that is produced by inhibitory neurons, to create a new period of plasticity of limited duration for repairing damaged brains,” says author Sunil P. Gandhi, PhD, postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Michael Stryker, PhD, professor of physiology and a member of the Keck Center for Integrative Neurosciences at UCSF. “It will be important to determine whether transplantation is equally effective in older animals.”

Likewise, “the results raise a fundamental question: how do these cells, as they pass through a specific stage in their development, create these windows of plasticity?” says author Derek G. Southwell, PhD, a student in the lab of Arturo Alvarez-Buylla, PhD, Heather and Melanie Muss Professor of Neurological Surgery and a member of the Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regeneration Medicine and Stem Cell Research at UCSF.

This or similar processes could also explain why young children can learn with ease (new languages for instance) but not adults.

More information: Science paper: “Cortical Plasticity Induced by Inhibitory Neuron Transplantation”,

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2 Responses to “Reviving Brain Plasticity”

  1. Dave says:

    Hey Martin, long time since I wrote a comment on here.

    Good to see you’re still training, trying new methods, and seeing more improvements in your numbers (you’re training an hour a day now I take it).

    Two things,

    1. You had posted a graph of your dual n-back scores over time which was very interesting and motivational. Would you be able to post a follow-up graph indicating when you made changes to your training (nines, nines + dual n-back, etc…)? I’d like to see if you got a little boost from training more every day.

    2. Do you note any further improvements in cognitive abilities whether they be objective (test scores) or subjective?

    As for me, I haven’t trained since the summer as work keeps me pretty busy – finding time for essentials such as cooking, cleaning, or even sleeping can be a challenge. Only a few more months until this medical residency is over though and then I should get close to living with a more human schedule.

    It’ll be weird to be able to take up hobbies again.


  2. martin says:

    Hi, Joe.

    I’ll post a new entry in response.


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