When the brain’s primary “learning center” is damaged, complex new neural circuits arise to compensate for the lost function, say life scientists from UCLA and Australia who have pinpointed the regions of the brain involved in creating those alternate pathways — often far from the damaged site.
The research, conducted by UCLA’s Michael Fanselow and Moriel Zelikowsky in collaboration with Bryce Vissel, a group leader of the neuroscience research program at Sydney’s Garvan Institute of Medical Research, appears this week in the early online edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The researchers found that parts of the prefrontal cortex take over when the hippocampus, the brain’s key center of learning and memory formation, is disabled. Their breakthrough discovery, the first demonstration of such neural-circuit plasticity, could potentially help scientists develop new treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, stroke and other conditions involving damage to the brain.
For the study, Fanselow and Zelikowsky conducted laboratory experiments with rats showing that the rodents were able to learn new tasks even after damage to the hippocampus. While the rats needed more training than they would have normally, they nonetheless learned from their experiences — a surprising finding.
“I expect that the brain probably has to be trained through experience,” said Fanselow, a professor of psychology and member of the UCLA Brain Research Institute, who was the study’s senior author. “In this case, we gave animals a problem to solve.”
After discovering the rats could, in fact, learn to solve problems, Zelikowsky, a graduate student in Fanselow’s laboratory, traveled to Australia, where she worked with Vissel to analyze the anatomy of the changes that had taken place in the rats’ brains. Their analysis identified significant functional changes in two specific regions of the prefrontal cortex.
“Interestingly, previous studies had shown that these prefrontal cortex regions also light up in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients, suggesting that similar compensatory circuits develop in people,” Vissel said. “While it’s probable that the brains of Alzheimer’s sufferers are already compensating for damage, this discovery has significant potential for extending that compensation and improving the lives of many.”
The hippocampus, a seahorse-shaped structure where memories are formed in the brain, plays critical roles in processing, storing and recalling information. The hippocampus is highly susceptible to damage through stroke or lack of oxygen and is critically involved in Alzheimer’s disease, Fanselow said.
“Until now, we’ve been trying to figure out how to stimulate repair within the hippocampus,” he said. “Now we can see other structures stepping in and whole new brain circuits coming into being.”
Zelikowsky said she found it interesting that sub-regions in the prefrontal cortex compensated in different ways, with one sub-region — the infralimbic cortex — silencing its activity and another sub-region — the prelimbic cortex — increasing its activity.
“If we’re going to harness this kind of plasticity to help stroke victims or people with Alzheimer’s,” she said, “we first have to understand exactly how to differentially enhance and silence function, either behaviorally or pharmacologically. It’s clearly important not to enhance all areas. The brain works by silencing and activating different populations of neurons. To form memories, you have to filter out what’s important and what’s not.”
Complex behavior always involves multiple parts of the brain communicating with one another, with one region’s message affecting how another region will respond, Fanselow noted. These molecular changes produce our memories, feelings and actions.
“The brain is heavily interconnected — you can get from any neuron in the brain to any other neuron via about six synaptic connections,” he said. “So there are many alternate pathways the brain can use, but it normally doesn’t use them unless it’s forced to. Once we understand how the brain makes these decisions, then we’re in a position to encourage pathways to take over when they need to, especially in the case of brain damage.
The Latest Bing News on:
- Brain Shrinkage in First-Time Dads: It's a Good Thingon September 21, 2022 at 11:17 am
Becoming a new parent changes the brain, not only in mothers who are responding to hormonal changes but also in fathers ― a change that researchers believe lays the groundwork for better parenting.
- What A Trip: Delix Therapeutics is Treating Mental Health at Scale with Psychoplastogenson September 15, 2022 at 4:57 pm
Delix Therapeutics is harnessing the power of isolating novel neuroplasticity-promoting therapeutics to better treat mental health disorders.
- A switch telling the brain when to learn and when to rememberon September 14, 2022 at 11:34 am
These two functions are controlled by different neural circuits. Using an animal model, scientists recently identified a neural signal in the hippocampus, a brain region essential for forming and ...
- Researchers Studying Psilocybin as Treatment for Obesityon September 14, 2022 at 8:07 am
Researchers affiliated with the University of Copenhagen are studying psilocybin as a possible treatment for obesity.
- News tagged with neural circuiton September 1, 2022 at 5:00 pm
Taste matters to fruit flies, just as it does to humans: like people, the flies tend to seek out and consume sweet-tasting foods and reject foods that taste bitter. However, little is known about ...
- Study Reveals BetterLife's LSD Analogue Boosts Structural Neuroplasticity Without Hallucinogenic Side Effectson August 24, 2022 at 12:48 pm
CEO Ahmad Doroudian said the results “confirm that our proprietary BETR-001, an LSD analog, retains the anti-depressant and neural plasticity activity of LSD without causing hallucination.
- BetterLife Lead Drug (BETR-001) Promotes Structural Neural Plasticity with Possible Nootropic ...on August 24, 2022 at 6:48 am
“These results confirm that our proprietary BETR-001, an LSD analog, retains the anti-depressant and neural plasticity activity of LSD without causing hallucination. The fact that BETR-001 can ...
- Mental Stimulation, Neural Plasticity, and Aging: Directions for Nursing Research and Practiceon August 22, 2022 at 5:00 pm
Developmental theories of mental stimulation and neural plasticity in humans typically conceptualize the process as initial exposure to novel stimuli, neuronal expansion, and establishment of new ...
- Neural Dynamics and Plasticityon March 30, 2022 at 10:55 pm
cells and circuits in the expression of behaviour. We apply molecular, electrophysiological, imaging and behaviour approaches to study fluctuating brain activity - neural dynamics – and longer-term ...
- Synaptic plasticity and addictionon May 29, 2021 at 4:39 pm
it can be argued that more than any other commonly studied form of experience-dependent plasticity, we are beginning to understand the potential causal relationships between the neural circuit ...
The Latest Google Headlines on:
The Latest Bing News on:
Repairing brain damage
- Starved of sleep? You could invite cancer or organ damage, warns Harvard study: 6 tips to beat insomniaon September 25, 2022 at 10:08 am
Enough has been said about the importance of sleep and ironically, even the online generation burns midnight oil over gathering information on how to beat insomnia. But do we really know how deadly ...
- ‘I have a hard time remembering things.’ What is brain fog and how can I treat it?on September 24, 2022 at 9:00 pm
Q: I have a hard time remembering things and often feel exhausted, like I can’t clear my head at all. Is this brain fog and is there anything I can do to fix it? A: The blank space in your mind, when ...
- What is brain fog and how can I treat it?on September 23, 2022 at 5:00 pm
I have a hard time remembering things and often feel exhausted, like I can’t clear my head at all. Is this brain fog, and is there anything I can do to fix it?
- This revolutionary drug could fix spinal cord injurieson September 23, 2022 at 5:49 am
Scientists have developed an injection that is being called revolutionary. According to a new study, the drug TTK21 has the potential to repair spinal cord injuries. It was tested ...
- A future cure for paralysis? Scientists discover way to repair axon fibers in the nerves of a damaged spine that do not regenerate naturallyon September 22, 2022 at 9:50 am
Scientists have found a way to repair fibers damaged fibers in the spine that ... When damaged, the body can no longer send signals from the brain through the nervous system, making motor ...
- Revolutionary injection could help repair spinal cord injurieson September 21, 2022 at 12:28 pm
Paralyzed mice regrew nerves within three months following weekly injections. The post Revolutionary injection could help repair spinal cord injuries appeared first on Talker.
- How bullying can harm your brainon September 20, 2022 at 11:47 am
Repetitive bullying can leave neurological scars and is associated with a shrunken hippocampus which is associated with depression and Alzheimer’s.
- "Bullying Causes Brain Damage": Science Shows It Can be Reversed, New Book Revealson September 1, 2022 at 3:13 am
"The myth that harsh conduct builds toughness and resilience is simply false and must be replaced by a greater understanding of how the brain's innate power can repair damaged neural networks.
- Limitations in Brain Repairon August 16, 2022 at 5:00 pm
We may more intelligently promote NPC compensation in adulthood by first examining injury to the developing ... Until the above issues are resolved, brain repair will not become a reality.
- Laboratory of brain repairon July 18, 2022 at 2:17 am
We are interested in mechanisms of brain repair after injury and in neurodegeneration aiming at finding new ways to restore and regenerate the damaged neuronal circuits and neurotransmission. We have ...