New research from American and Australian scientists shows that the brain attempts to heal and make up for lost functioning after damage by creating complex new circuits, often far from the site of the damage.
The study, lead by Dr. Moriel Zelikowsky and Dr. Michael Fanselow from UCLA, working with Dr. Bryce Vissel from Sydney’s Garvan Institute of Medical Research, dramatically adds to our understandings of brain plasticity, as the scientists even identified the exact regions of the brain that take the lead when the hippocampus is damaged.
Tests conducted in the lab showed that rats were unmistakably able to learn new tasks after damage to the memory center of the brain, though it did require more training. After testing, Vissel and Zelikowsky analysed the anatomic changes occurring in the brains after the damage to the hippocampus, which identified significant changes to two regions of the pre-frontal cortex.
“Interestingly, previous studies had shown that these pre-frontal cortex regions also light up in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients, suggesting that similar compensatory circuits develop in people,” Dr. Vissel told Health Canal.
These findings will have serious implications, not just for brain plasticity knowledge, but also for our broad understandings of how the brain works as a whole. Vissel said, “we’ve constrained ourselves by the idea that specific parts of the brain are dedicated to specific functions, and that if regeneration were to take place it would have to do so near the damaged site.”
The study, published in the online edition of the Proceedings of the Academy of Science (PNAS), shows how interconnected the brain is, and offers up a huge amount of possibilities for Alzheimer’s, stroke, and even traumatic brain injury recovery. First, we have to understand how these new systems come to be.