Uncovering Plasticity in the Adult Brain

From ScienceDaily: "Overturning a century of prevailing thought, scientists are finding that neurons in the adult brain can remodel their connections. ... [researchers] saw relatively large-scale changes in the length of dendrites - branched projections of nerve cells that conduct electrical stimulation to the cell body. Even more surprising was their finding that this growth was limited to specific type of cell. The majority of cortical neurons were stable, while the small fraction of locally connecting cells called interneurons underwent dynamic rearrangement. ... the capacity of interneurons to remodel is not predetermined by genetic lineage, but imposed by the circuitry within the layers of the cortex itself. ... Our findings suggest that the location of cells within the circuit and not pre-programming by genes determines their ability to remodel in the adult brain. If we can identify what aspect of this location allows growth in an otherwise stable brain, we can perhaps use it to coax growth in cells and regions that are normally unable to repair or adjust to a changing environment."

Link: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/11/081124174909.htm

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