Making an old brain young again

It doesn’t take a neuroscientist to observe that old and young brains differ: children and adolescents can learn new things more easily and more quickly than adults, and their brains can recover more fully from injury. Underlying these differences is Nogo Receptor 1 (NgR1), a protein that fixes brain circuits in place in adulthood to ensure stable functioning.

Stephen M. Strittmatter, M.D., Ph.D., Vincent Coates Professor of Neurology and professor of neurobiology, teamed up with William B. Cafferty, Ph.D., assistant professor of neurology, and colleagues to study NgR1’s role in brain plasticity—the brain’s ability to rearrange its connections based on new experiences.

In the March 6 issue of Neuron, the group reports that adult mice lacking NgR1 exhibited plasticity at levels typically seen in much younger mice; the mice were more adept than control mice at learning new tasks, and were more able to recover from trauma. The findings, they say, could lead to new ways to treat brain injuries, such as stroke, or memory loss in humans.


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