Tags: Autism | old | brains | young | embryonic | neuron | GABA

Research Promises to Make Old Brains Young Again

By    |   Thursday, 21 May 2015 03:07 PM


Neurobiologists at the University of California at Irvine may have found a key to making old brains young again. By transplanting a particular type of embryonic neuron into the brains of adult mice, their brains obtained the flexibility of juveniles.

UC Irvine neurobiologist Sunil Gandhi and his colleagues wanted to know whether the flexibility of juvenile brains could be restored to the adult brain. Simply, they reactivated brain plasticity – the rapid and robust changes in neural pathways and synapses as a result of learning and experience.

The research may lead the way to new treatments for developmental brain disorders such as autism and schizophrenia.

The scientists transplanted embryonic nerve cells that express GABA, an amino acid which acts as a neurotransmitter in the central nervous system that helps regulate motor control, vision, and other brain functions.

If the brain doesn't have enough GABA, other neurotransmitters, such as adrenaline, stimulate neurons, causing them to fire too often which can lead to anxiety, irritability, and insomnia.

GABA calms brain activity and slows the firing of neurons. It's often sold as a supplement that acts as a natural tranquilizer.

When the researchers transplanted GABA neurons, the brains became much more flexible, allowing the brain to "rewire" and make more connections like a much younger brain.

Early in life, normal visual experience is crucial in order for connections in the visual system to be properly wired. Impaired vision during this time leads to a long-lasting visual deficit called amblyopia or lazy eye. In an attempt to restore normal sight, the researchers transplanted GABA neurons into the visual cortex of adult mice with amblyopia.

"Several weeks after transplantation, when the donor animal's visual system would be going through its critical period, the amblyopic mice started to see with normal visual acuity," said the study's lead author Melissa Davis.

The study raised hopes that GABA neuron transplantation might help retrain adult brains after injuries, as well as to lead to new therapies for brain disorders that currently have no cure, such as autism and schizophrenia.

Results of Gandhi's study appears online in Neuron.

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Neurobiologists at the University of California at Irvine may have found a key to making old brains young again. By transplanting a particular type of embryonic neuron into the brains of adult mice, their brains obtained the flexibility of juveniles. UC Irvine...
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2015-07-21
Thursday, 21 May 2015 03:07 PM
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