Embryonic neurons transplanted into mice can induce a period of flexibility in a relatively rigid older brain, suggesting a possible mechanism to repair damaged brain circuits, according a study published this week in Science.
Inhibitory neurons transplanted
from the embryonic brain
into the postnatal brain

Image: Derek Southwell
"It's terrific," said neuroscientist linkurl:Takao Hensch;http://golgi.harvard.edu/Faculty/faculty_profile.php?f=takao-hensch of Harvard University, who was not involved in the research. "This is a very nice demonstration that just transplanting those very cells that [influence brain development] initially can reintroduce a period of plasticity. The obvious therapeutic implications are very exciting." As a young brain matures, it goes through various periods of reorganization known as critical periods -- short bursts of neural plasticity. The development of the visual system, for example, involves a period of brain plasticity shortly after birth in which neurons are rewired to "match up the connections in the visual cortex so that...

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