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Harnessing neuroplasticity to drive and repair brain development

Re-open­ing Win­dows: Manip­u­lat­ing Crit­i­cal Peri­ods for Brain Devel­op­ment (Cere­brum):

Whether we real­ize it or not, near­ly all of us have dreamed of enhanc­ing brain plas­tic­i­ty, or the brain’s capac­i­ty to change. This desire might become appar­ent when we vis­it a for­eign coun­try late in life and wish we could speak with the flu­en­cy of a native; when we hear an exquis­ite vio­lin per­for­mance and wish we had learned to play as a child; or sim­ply when we wish it were eas­i­er to break a bad habit.

The same desire per­me­ates society’s hope for advanced treat­ment of brain injury, where the dimin­ished plas­tic­i­ty of the adult brain severe­ly lim­its recov­ery. One exam­ple is stroke, a major cause of long-term dis­abil­i­ty for which there is cur­rent­ly no phar­ma­co­log­i­cal treat­ment. Many stroke vic­tims suf­fer mus­cle weak­ness or paral­y­sis and have dif­fi­cul­ty walk­ing. Com­pound­ing these chal­lenges are aphasias, or impair­ments in the abil­i­ty to talk, read, write, and under­stand words or num­bers. In a sub­stan­tial num­ber of cas­es, the after­math of a stroke can make it impos­si­ble to live inde­pen­dent­ly.”

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