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Making an old brain young

Yale Medicine Magazine, 2013 - Spring

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Yale scientists have reversed a molecular switch that helps the brain make the transition from teenager to adult. They reported on March 6 in the journal Neuron making an adult mouse brain youthful, which promoted learning and healing.

Scientists have long known that adolescent brains are more malleable—youngsters learn languages more quickly and recover faster from brain injuries. The Yale team found that without this molecular switch—the Nogo Receptor 1 gene—juvenile levels of brain plasticity lasted into adulthood. When researchers blocked this gene in adult mice, they found that the mice recovered from injury as quickly as adolescents and mastered complex motor tasks more quickly than adults with the receptor gene.

“It suggests we can turn back the clock in the adult brain and recover from trauma the way kids recover,” said senior author Stephen Strittmatter, M.D., Ph.D., the Vincent Coates Professor of Neurology and professor of neurobiology.