Hope for the aging Brain with Youthful Plasticity

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Time is passing…

The constant, unyielding and never-ending march of time wreaks havoc in human bodies. We age, and our tissues and organs start their inevitable descent into degeneration and death. Our brains grow old, full of knowledge and experience. They become vulnerable to disease and slow down. It has an impact on the capacity of humans to learn, remember and adapt to changes in the environment. Can something be done to halt or even reverse these damaging changes to the seat of human intelligence and power? It turns out that there might be hope for us after all.

Time is passing.


The Research

A team of researchers at the University of Utah Health has been successful in refreshing or returning the plasticity of brains in adult mice. Plasticity refers to the ability of an animal’s brain to learn new things and adapt to new environments. Scientists of the University of Utah were successful in rejuvenating the plasticity of the visual cortex of adult mice.

Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) on the 8th of August, the research shows that by editing a single gene, scientists were able to increase the capability of the visual cortices of adult mice brains to adapt to new stimuli/changes. The lead investigator, Jason Shepherd intimated that the findings of the team could result in new treatments in humans that can boost brain plasticity. This could have important implications for the treatment of many neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, dementia and Parkinson’s disease.

Other investigations and the future

Various methods have been used to investigate and prolong plasticity in the brains of mice. Chronic treatment with antidepressants and raising mice in an environment full of new stimuli are some of the methods that scientists have used. The researchers at the University of Utah used viruses to manipulate a particular gene in mice known as Arc.

The next step for the scientists at the University is investigating whether the manipulation of the Arc gene will also lead to the restoration of the plasticity of other functions of the brain such as learning, memory, and repair.

Kostas Deroukakis
Love to search, to try, to give, to learn. Knowledge, is the road for this achievement
  • Source: 1) Arc Restores juvenile plasticity in adult mouse visual cortex. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, August 2017 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1700866114 2) University of Utah Health. “Youthful plasticity restored to brains of adult mice.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 August 2017. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/08/170808145956.htm.
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