By discovering the molecular switch that helps the brain transition from adolescence to adulthood, a team of Yale researchers have reversed the process, recreating a youthful brain that facilitated both learning and healing in the adult mouse. “By monitoring the synapses in living mice over weeks and months, Yale researchers have identified the key genetic switch for brain maturation: the Nogo Receptor 1 gene is required to suppress high levels of plasticity in the adolescent brain and create the relatively quiescent levels of plasticity in adulthood.”
What’s the Big Idea?
Because older brains are slower to learn than younger ones, rehabilitation efforts lag after older patients have suffered brain injuries, likes strokes, and need to relearn tasks such as moving a hand. Researchers found that adult mice lacking Nogo Receptor recovered from injury as quickly as adolescent mice and mastered new, complex motor tasks more quickly than adults with the receptor. “This raises the potential that manipulating Nogo Receptor in humans might accelerate and magnify rehabilitation after brain injuries like strokes,” said Feras Akbik, Yale doctoral student who is first author of the study.