Children learn at an astonishing rate. Their ability to absorb and retain information can be seen in languages and music. Compared to adults the children brain has enhanced plasticity- psychology and anatomy changes in the brain due to exposure to various environments.
Although adults do retain plasticity, their ability to learn new languages, games or music is slower. A good example is when a non-native speaker learns a new language; adults will learn as well but will have an accent whereas a child taught the same language at age 7 will converse flawlessly by the time they are 8.
Until recently, mechanisms that make children learn faster than adults had not been uncovered. However, new research shows parts of what goes on in kids’ brains. The mechanism tries to explore what makes the brain ‘spongy’ that it can absorb and retain information. The new discovery is as exciting to point out that there might be hope of resetting the adult aging brain. Imagine being able to restore the brain back to its youthful state.
According to research at Lehigh University the mechanisms revolves around a set of receptors known as cholinergic or nicotine receptors. In animals, re-energizing these receptors can enable an adult brain regain its youthfulness and possibly sustain increased activity. Knocking down the molecular brake in the brain which is the lynx1 protein will help the brain retain its former state and grow.
In a study, knocking out the protein lynx1 genes in mice enhanced motor learning ability and the changes were persistent throughout life. It also improved memory and associative learning. In collaboration with Harvard medical school, it was proven that removing the molecular brake entirely extends plasticity and critical period which is postnatal day 60 for a mouse.
According to the two studies, the results suggest that it is possible to have treatment that resets the adult brain to improve its ability to absorb, interpret and retain new information and learn skills. Knocking down lynx1 molecular brake through administering the interfering RNA molecules which alter lynx1 gene is expressed in neurons. This method regulates the lynx1 protein and frees up neurons with receptors to facilitate growth and form connections.
Such could be a medical milestone especially for patients suffering from memory-related illnesses like Alzheimer’s, Stroke, and Parkinson’s disease. Helping these patients have a youthful brain will help them with speech therapy, re-learning skills and help regain memory.
Although safety and efficacy of this research has not been established it is important to acknowledge possible side effects. Current studies being carried out by neuroscientists shows new ways to extend brain plasticity and restore damaged brain in adults. The same work is being explored by Ophidion Inc- a company that is developing the same mechanism and ways to safely deliver it to the brain. They are already laying ground for clinical tries and ways to tackle cognitive decline that is related to different neurodegenerative diseases.
The brain is one of the most vital parts of the human anatomy. It controls most of the other parts of the body and losing cognitive ability is fatal. If the recent studies can be safely create a treatment that knocks out the lynx1 molecular brake that means we could have a magic pill that reverse engineers our brains.
Truth is the innovation might not be around the corner. Getting approval for medical inventions is a long journey and the FDA has to scrutinize the process and be content with the results. Nonetheless, memory-related illnesses are draining and have so far been untreatable. There is no limit to the wonders this invention would bring. After all we all could use child-like cognitive brain activity.
The fact that there is just hope for the ‘smart pill’ someday means that there is a theory in evolution and it is being picked by more researchers. A clinical trial is definitely a milestone and if researchers can come up with a way to introduce or administer this medication it is one less problem.
Ultimately it is a solution for people ailing from stroke and other illness and also for the average individual who wants a child-like brain.
- Exercising Your Brain: A Review of Human Brain Plasticity and Training-Induced Learning
- Could a “Smart Pill” Ever Make Your Brain Young Again?
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