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Scientists, led by an Indian-origin researcher, have successfully coaxed old brain processes to become young again, paving the way for new treatments for brain disorders such as autism and schizophrenia.

University of California-Irvine neurobiologist Sunil Gandhi and colleagues re-created a critical juvenile period in the brains of adult mice, reactivating brain plasticity — the rapid and robust changes in neural pathways and synapses as a result of learning and experience. They achieved this by transplanting a certain type of embryonic neuron into the brains of adult mice.

Transplanted neurons express GABA, a chief inhibitory neurotransmitter that aids in motor control, vision and many other cortical functions.

Much like older muscles lose their youthful flexibility, older brains lose plasticity. But in the study, the transplanted GABA neurons created a new period of heightened plasticity that allowed for vigorous rewiring of the adult brain. In a sense, old brain processes became young again.

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